Study Guide

Empire State of Mind

Empire State of Mind Introduction

In a Nutshell

The Big Apple. The City That Never Sleeps. The Capital of the World. Gotham.

New York City, by far the country's largest urban center, has always held a special place in the American imagination. Washington, D.C., may be the official national capital, but NYC is the real cultural and economic capital of the United States. 

And it has been for almost 200 years. New York is, as Alicia Keys sings, the place "where dreams are made of."

Unsurprisingly, Gotham has inspired more than its fair share of musical tributes. For the past few decades, the anthemic tune of the big city has surely been Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York," which, appropriately enough, Jay-Z name-checks in this song.

So, step aside Sinatra. It may be time for a new Big Apple anthem for a new generation.

About the Song

ArtistJay-Z & Alicia Keys
Year2009
LabelRoc Nation, Atlantic Records
Writer(s)Shawn Carter (Jay-Z), Alicia Keys, Al Shuckburgh (Al Shux), Angela Hunte, Jane't (Jnay) Sewell-Ulepic
Producer(s)Al Shux, Angela Hunte, Jnay Sewell-Ulepic
Musician(s)Jay-Z (vocals), Alicia Keys (vocals)
Learn to playSheet Music
AlbumThe Blueprint 3

Music Video

Influences on Jay-Z & Alicia Keys

Big Daddy Kane
Slick Rick
Nas
Frank Sinatra

Influenced by Jay-Z & Alicia Keys

Fabolous
G Unit
M.I.A.
T.I.
Young Gunz
Young Jeezy

Empire State of Mind Resources

Books

Jay-Z, Decoded (2010)
Told through decoding lyrics, Jay-Z lets us in on his background, his writing philosophies, and where his skills have taken him.

Bridget Heos, Jay-Z (2009)
The Library of Hip-Hop Biographies presents the life and times of Shawn Carter. Perfect for classrooms.

Dax-Devlon Ross, The Nightmare and the Dream: Nas, Jay-Z, and the History of Conflict in African-American Culture (2008)
Dax-Devlon Ross intelligently explores the ties between the Nas and Jay-Z conflict and historical trends in African-American cultures of conflict.

Albums

The Blueprint 2: The Gift and the Curse (2002)
This is a double-disc of strong songwriting and rap party hits.

American Gangster (2007)
The "unofficial musical companion" to the film of the same name, this album, with Jay-Z consciously trying to get more complexity in his material, follows the rise-and-fall of an American gangster just like the film.

The Blueprint 3 (2009)
Jay-Z's 11th #1 album contains the hits "Run This Town" and "Empire State of Mind."

Images

"Empire State of Mind" Single Cover
This is the single cover for the song.

Jay-Z and Alicia Keys
Jay-Z and Keys are pictured here smiling after their performance at the 2009 MTV VMAs.

"Made the Yankee Hat More Famous Than a Yankee Can"
Entrepreneur and rap artist Jay-Z wears his signature cap.

Movies & TV

Classic Albums: Reasonable Doubt (2007)
This documentary takes a look at Jay-Z's classic first album which, for many, remains the rapper's greatest.

American Gangster (2007)
This urban epic from Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, and Ridley Scott was the inspiration for Jay-Z's 2007 album of the same name.

Websites

Jay-Z's Official Site
Here's our main man Jay-Z's official website.

Alicia Keys' Official Site
Check out Alicia Keys' slick homepage, too.

Christopher John Farley, "Is 'Empire State of Mind' One of the Great New York Anthems?" Wall Street Journal (2009)
The Wall Street Journal's Christopher John Farley gives a sampling of other New York anthems while discussing this latest one.

Jocelyn Vena, "Alicia Keys 'Grateful' To Jay-Z For 'Empire State Of Mind,'" MTV (2009)
Alicia Keys talks about her experience in signing up and recording the hit with Jay-Z.

Video & Audio

"Empire State of Mind" Live at the World Series
As if the song being Derek Jeter's plate music weren't enough, the song was performed during Game 2 of the 2009 World Series.

Sample #1: "Breakthrough" by Isaac Hayes
The beat of the song comes from "Breakthrough" by Isaac Hayes.

Sample #2: "Love on a Two-Way Street" by the Moments
The piano and cello loop come from the intro of "Love on a Two-Way Street" by the Moments.