Three years ago I found myself at home on a steamy summer day, contending with a head cold as I sifted through a virtual mountain of unread email. As my finger descended upon the delete key to banish yet another message, I re-read the subject line, “Book Project Opportunity.” The email turned out to be from an editor at Penguin, asking if I’d be interested in writing a book about Jay-Z.
Today, that book—Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went From Street Corner to Corner Office—comes out in paperback, complete with new chapters by yours truly and a fresh foreword by Steve Forbes, drawing on his impressions from an afternoon spent with Jay-Z and Warren Buffett in 2010. Jay-Z, of course, never granted me an interview for my book (more on that in “Why I Wrote An Unauthorized Biography of Jay-Z: Part I”), but the new foreword finally provides that element.
The reason I initially wrote the book was quite simple: I had always been an avid consumer of all things hip-hop, I’d gained some insight into the business of rap by putting together FORBES’ annual Hip-Hop Cash Kings packages, and I was lucky enough to have piqued the interest of an editor at Penguin. But for me, one of the most fascinating parts the journey was discovering additional reasons for having written the bookafter I’d already written and released it.
As soon as the hardcover edition made its debut last year, I started to receive some fascinating responses. One total stranger emailed me insisting I meet him, write about him, and observe as he became a millionaire. Another, who asserted that I was “helping drug-dealing lowlifes,” led off an email with the line, “Zack, you’re an idiot!”
The responses from other rappers have been much more positive. When I gave a copy to Birdman, he thanked me and then cryptically referred to Jay-Z as “a special cat.” Wiz Khalifa, on the other hand, simply said, “Thank you! Can you sign it for me?”
But the most satisfying part was the feedback I received from aspiring entrepreneurs in locales ranging from North Carolina to Nigeria. I received scores of emails thanking me for laying out Jay-Z’s entrepreneurial philosophy in an engaging and accessible manner. Said one reader:
Admittedly, my entrepreneurial pursuits and goals are certainly more modest than Jay-Z’s. I’m not looking to take over the world, but to build a successful company and do interesting work while continuing to devote time and energy aplenty to my wife and two young kids. Yet I know that many of the lessons to be drawn from your book’s analysis of Jay-Z and his global brand will be with me, and I intend to incorporate them in my own small ways into my own business.
Receiving feedback like that reminds me that although Jay-Z talks a lot about business, both in interviews and in his music, he’s often secretive when it comes to laying out his entrepreneurial philosophy or discussing particular details in depth.
Like the rest of my book, the new chapters in the Empire State of Mind paperback aim to do exactly that. Some highlights:
* The new foreword by Steve Forbes, drawing on his interviews with Jay-Z and Warren Buffett.
* An investigative chapter revealing Jay-Z’s financial relationship with a notable Swiss watchmaker.
* Full analysis of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch The Throne and how it changed the business of hip-hop.
* New interviews with rappers, executives and entrepreneurs connected to Jay-Z.
* Updates on the birth of Blue Ivy Carter, Jay-Z’s net worth and more.
My hope is that the new chapters will provide additional insights for readers all over the world. And with any luck, the paperback edition will generate even more reasons for me to have written the book.
Check out the new paperback version of Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went From Street Corner to Corner Office, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook.