My Jay-Z biography Empire State of Mind debuted in March 2011, but the reviews are still rolling in. The latest: a nod as “one of the year’s best rock books” from Bloomberg News and a jolly good writeup from the Financial Times.
From Bloomberg News:
Jay-Z’s rise to fame has as many lessons for would-be moguls as for budding rappers: Turn yourself into a brand. Take risks. Take more risks. Work insanely hard. Have boundless self-belief. Always look for the most realistic way to maximize profit. Jay-Z might add: Become boss of Def Jam records. Set up Roc-A-Fella records. Marry Beyonce.
All these lessons are clear from Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went From Street Corner to Corner Office by Zack O’Malley Greenburg (Portfolio, $25.95), one of the year’s best rock books. The performer, whose real name is Shawn Carter, started as a Brooklyn kid who shot his brother in the shoulder for stealing his jewelry. He then tried selling crack cocaine. He missed few street-smart tricks on his way to a fortune estimated by Forbes at $450 million. As he fliply rapped, “I’m not a businessman: I’m a business, man.” His biggest lesson, both in music and money, is to broadcast only success and ignore failures — such as the few singles that failed to chart (“Hovi Baby”) or the Jay-Z- branded Jeep that failed to make it into production.
The book tells us rather more about Jay-Z than his own work, “Decoded” (Spiegel & Grau, $25), a fragmented memoir and picture-heavy scrapbook that has been reissued with 16 pages meant to explain his newer lyrics. (Read the full story at Bloomberg News)
From The Financial Times:
The story of how Jay-Z acquired that fortune – as the subtitle says, making the move “from street corner to corner office” – is well told in Zack O’Malley Greenburg’s slender but entertaining Empire State of Mind. Tales of how artists rose from difficult backgrounds to stardom are familiar, as are accounts of how entrepreneurs built business empires from nothing. What is striking about the Jay-Z saga is that it is both. A teenager growing up with an absent father in a tough New York housing estate in the 1980s, Shawn Carter, as he was born, became a crack dealer and continued selling even as he tried to get his music career off the ground in the early 1990s. (His performing name comes from the intersection of the J and Z subway lines near the Marcy Houses – typically dour, brown New York public housing in six-storey apartment buildings – where he grew up.)
Today, as O’Malley Greenburg puts it, “As much as Martha Stewart or Oprah [Winfrey], he has turned himself into a lifestyle.” Jay-Z’s personal brand has been extended to clothes, shoes, cologne, Manhattan’s Spotted Pig restaurant and the New Jersey Nets basketball team, through licensing deals and shareholdings. The common thread is that “Jay-Z has a nose for money”. In whatever form his entrepreneurship has manifested itself, as a crack dealer, a rapper or an executive, he has had an acute sense of commercial opportunities, and the determination to exploit them to the full. (Read the full story at The Financial Times)