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Wednesday, May 5, 2021

BOOK REVIEW: New Jay-Z book not really new

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The story goes that when author Zack O’Malley Greenburg approached rapper now mogul Jay-Z about being interviewed for his book about his rise from drug dealer to businessman, the Brooklyn MC cut him off because he wasn’t going to profit from the book.

Some may look at Jay-Z and shrug him off as selfish. However, those of us who have been with him since 1996 understand how long hip-hop artists have been taken advantage of, and respect artists more when they say no to a project that is not beneficial to them.

Greenburg’s book Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office is not beneficial to Jay-Z. In fact, Greenburg could have asked me and I could have written this book for him. Or he could have scrapped this book since Jay-Z released his own last year, Decoded, which of course went on to become a best seller.

The story of how Shawn Corey Carter the drug dealer became Jay-Z the rapper with 11 No. 1 albums, to Mr. Carter husband of Beyonce and multimillionaire thanks to lucrative business deals and endorsements is old news. Buy his records and you can learn how he did it from his own mouth.

This book isn’t for Jay-Z fans. It’s for people who aren’t familiar with hip-hop and are curious as to how Jay-Z has been able to stay on top as a rapper and bust the ceiling open as a business man. Greenburg notes that in 2010, the rapper earned more than all but seven CEOs in the country. Executives that made less included Howard Schultz, Michael Dell and Ralph Lauren.

“One of the main reasons for this success is Jay-Z’s ability to build and leverage his personal brand. As much as Martha Stewart and Oprah, he has turned himself into a lifestyle,” Greenburg writes in the introduction. “You can wake up to the local radio station playing Jay-Z’s latest hit, spritz yourself with his 9IX cologne, slip into a pair of his Rocawear jeans, lace up your Reebok S. Carter sneakers, catch a Nets basketball game in the afternoon, and grab dinner at The Spotted Pig (Jay-Z owns a stake in both) before heading to an evening performance of the Jay-Z backed Broadway musical ‘Fela!’ and a nightcap at his 40/40 Club.”

Although the book doesn’t release any new information, as a hip-hop fan and Jay-Z fan I relish in the fact that mainstream America wants to know how a kid from the projects in Brooklyn could become friends with Barack Obama and Michael Bloomberg. How a drug dealer can became just as famous as Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan. How a rapper can market himself to brands like Reebok, HP and Live Nation. If you want to know and don’t want to read the book, just ask me.


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