Song Lyric Sunday – Empire State of Mind – Contrasts

The theme for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday is Contrasts. Our host, Jim Adams has prompted us to find songs with ‘Contrast’. A good example of melodic contrast is Rap, to tell the story, combined with mainstream music which you can sing a long with. I have chosen a song that I like very much, “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z featuring my favorite artist Alicia Keys. I hope you enjoy the contrast.

  • This Blueprint 3 track features Jay-Z’s fellow New Yorker, Alicia Keys. On The Howard Stern Show November 15, 2010, Jay explained that he had Mary J. Blige in mind for the female vocals, but when he heard the piano stabs in the song, he decided to go with Keys.
  • On this track the Roc Nation CEO details his rise from the Marcy Projects to his SoHo Penthouse, comparing himself along the way to other famous New Yorkers such as Robert De Niro and Frank Sinatra (The lyrics, “Since I made it here, I can make it anywhere,” reference the crooner’s Big Apple classic “New York, New York“). New York is the “Empire State.”
  • The title is similar to Nas’ 1994 track, “N.Y. State of Mind” and Billy Joel’s 1976 song, “New York State of Mind.”
  • This song is very anthemic, meaning it gets the crowd singing along to the chorus. It even works on non-New Yorkers. “It’s all about New York and people might not gravitate to being from New York because that’s not where everyone’s from,” Keys told NPR. “But it’s not about New York, it’s about hope. It’s about the chance that we’ll leave, and that is what made it relatable.”
  • This samples “Love on a Two Way Street” by American ’60s soul group The Moments.
  • Keys explained to MTV News about how the collaboration came about: “I’ve admired Jay-Z for a long time. Reasonable Doubt is my all-time favorite album, period, and he’s been on the scene for long time. I always figured that we would do some type of collaboration, and finally, it came together with this. He reached out to me said, ‘I have this big New York record. I feel its right for us to do it together. It has this big Frank Sinatra, take-it-there feeling. I feel like you could really do something with it.’

    I went by [the studio], took a listen to it. I really felt the energy of New York all through it. It felt classic, it felt so good; the piano obviously was in there. I said, ‘I love it, so let’s do it.’ We communicated a lot during the process. I think we both are really happy with how it came out.”
  • Keys told MTV News that she wanted to make sure she got the hook right. “I did try it a couple of times, but it was more about capturing the kind of grand feeling of it,” she explained. “With the way I sang it the first time, I was actually kind of sick, and I knew that he needed the record, so I was like, ‘Let me get to it.’ I came back and revisited it so that it could be what it is now,” she added. “So it actually took a couple of times, but every time, the energy was just so high.”
  • The Hype Williams-directed video was filmed on October 1, 2009, in Harlem and around Ground Zero of New York City. The images of the city were intercut with shots of Jay-Z and Keys performing in Times Square. Keys told MTV News: “It is a masterpiece video. The way it’s put together, it is so New York. You totally get it and understand it. It’s artistic. It’s hard. It’s beautiful. It’s like everything. And definitely getting to be in the middle of Times Square on my piano [with] Jay, representing our home city is a triumph. It was unbelievable.”
  • Jay-Z performed the song with his backup singer Bridget Kelly at the Yankees’ victory celebration in New York on November 6, 2009. Kelly has regularly filled in for Keys on performances of the song, including one at the MTV Europe Music Awards 2009.
  • This was the first Jay-Z song to top the Billboard Hot 100 which featured on one of his albums. The New York rapper was a featured artist on all his previous chart-toppers, which include, “Hearbreaker” with Mariah Carey, “Crazy In Love” with Beyoncé and “Umbrella” with Rihanna. Sales for this unofficial hometown anthem were aided by the New York Yankees’ unprecedented performances at the World Series and their victory parade during which Jay-Z performed the song.
  • This song was originally written by Brooklyn-native singer/songwriter/producer Angela Hunte and her writing partner Jane’t “Jnay” Sewell-Ulepic. Hunte, who penned and produced the track about her beloved hometown, actually grew up at “560 State Street,” the street address Jay-Z mentions on the tune. Among the other songs she has written are “Do Somethin’,” which was the second single from Britney Spears’ Greatest Hits: My Prerogative compilation, and “Show Stopper” for Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Danity Kane group, which reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

    Hunte told Billboard magazine: “I come from the same building where he [Jay-Z] lived, and we knew each other from Brooklyn, but we never worked together. Not in a million years did I think I’d make this hit for him. I still have no words even for the World Series performance. You get your hopes up with artists but then things happen and the record doesn’t make it for whatever reason. But Jay loved the song, it made the album and it sounds crazy.”

Courtesy of Songfacts


Yeah I'm out that Brooklyn, now I'm down in Tribeca
Right next to DeNiro, but I'll be hood forever
I'm the new Sinatra, and since I made it here
I can make it anywhere, yeah, they love me everywhere
I used to cop in Harlem, all of my Dominicanos
Right there up on Broadway, pull me back to that McDonald's
Took it to my stash spot, 560 State St
Catch me in the kitchen like the Simmons' whipping Pastry
Cruisin' down 8th St., off-white Lexus
Drivin' so slow, but BK is from Texas
Me, I'm out that Bed-Stuy, home of that boy Biggie
Now I live on Billboard and I brought my boys with me
Say what up to TyTy, still sippin' Mai Tai's
Sittin' courtside, Knicks & Nets give me high five
Nigga, I be spiked out, I could trip a referee
Tell by my attitude that I'm most definitely from

[Alicia Keys:]
In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There's nothin' you can't do
Now you're in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Let's hear it for New York, New York
New York

You're welcome OG. I made you hot, nigga

Catch me at the X with OG at a Yankee game
Shit, I made the Yankee hat more famous then a Yankee can
You should know I bleed blue, but I ain't a Crip though
But I got a gang of niggas walkin' with my clique though
Welcome to the melting pot, corners where we sellin' rock
Afrika Bambataa shit, home of the hip-hop
Yellow cab, gypsy cab, dollar cab, holla back
For foreigners it ain't fair, they act like they forgot how to add
8 million stories, out there in the naked
City it's a pity, half of y'all won't make it
Me, I got a plug Special Ed "I Got It Made"
If Jeezy's payin' LeBron, I'm payin' Dwyane Wade
Three-dice Cee-lo, three-card Monte
Labor Day Parade, rest in peace Bob Marley
Statue of Liberty, long live the World Trade
Long live the King yo, I'm from the Empire State that's

[Alicia Keys:]
In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There's nothin' you can't do
Now you're in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Let's hear it for New York, New York
New York

That boy good. Welcome to the bright light, baby

Lights is blinding, girls need blinders
Or they could step out of bounds quick, the sidelines is
Lined with casualties, who sip to life casually
Then gradually become worse, don't bite the apple, Eve
Caught up in the in-crowd, now you're in style
And it the winter gets cold, in Vogue with your skin out
City of sin, it's a pity on a whim
Good girls gone bad, the city's filled with them
Mommy took a bus trip, now she got her bust out
Everybody ride her, just like a bus route
Hail Mary to the city, you're a virgin
And Jesus can't save you, life starts when the church end
Came here for school, graduated to the high life
Ball players, rap stars, addicted to the limelight
MDMA got you feelin' like a champion
The city never sleeps, better slip you an Ambien

[Alicia Keys:]
In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There's nothin' you can't do
Now you're in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Let's hear it for New York, New York
New York

[Alicia Keys:]
One hand in the air for the big city
Street lights, big dreams, all lookin' pretty
No place in the world that could compare
Put your lighters in the air
Everybody say "yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah" (c'mon, c'mon)
I'm from

[Alicia Keys:]
In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There's nothin' you can't do
Now you're in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Let's hear it for New York, New York
New York

  28 comments for “Song Lyric Sunday – Empire State of Mind – Contrasts

  1. ousmandaffeh
    October 13, 2020 at 6:31 am

    Nice song

  2. September 17, 2020 at 4:29 pm

    Nice song, lots of NY things mentioned. Love Alicia Keys voice, and it’s fun to see how they blend together with this song. 🙂

  3. September 16, 2020 at 2:40 pm

    I like the Alicia Keys part. Not a big fan of Rap.

    • Christine Bolton
      September 16, 2020 at 4:18 pm

      Most people aren’t. But I do like the words! Thanks for listening 🥰

  4. September 13, 2020 at 6:23 pm

    I really really really love love love this song!!!

    • Christine Bolton
      September 13, 2020 at 8:00 pm

      I’m so happy you do. It’s a favorite of mine. I love both artists. Thanks Mel ☺️💕

  5. September 13, 2020 at 2:13 pm

    I am so impressed Christine , I was not thinking in that box, how clever of you ….if I had been as clever as you I would of chosen Pricetag with Jessie J featuring B.o.B . But I didn’t 😜

    • Christine Bolton
      September 13, 2020 at 3:17 pm

      Thanks so much Willow. I thought I had messed up today. So happy I didn’t. I’m pleased you like the same mix of genres. I enjoy Rap. Cause at the end of. The day it is poetry after all ☺️

      • September 13, 2020 at 4:36 pm

        Yes indeed lyrics, rap poetry all one 💜💜

      • Christine Bolton
        September 13, 2020 at 8:01 pm

        Thank you! ☺️💕

      • September 14, 2020 at 3:22 am


  6. September 13, 2020 at 1:26 pm

    Excellent choice!

    • Christine Bolton
      September 13, 2020 at 3:18 pm

      Aww thanks Jilly. I’m happy you liked it ☺️

  7. September 13, 2020 at 11:17 am

    The Oakland County Golf courses are famous and that is what the OG is in this song. Thanks for sharing this Christine.

    • Christine Bolton
      September 13, 2020 at 8:06 pm

      Oh I didn’t know what that was. Thanks Jim! I actually loved Jay-Z’s last line “The city never sleeps, better slip you a Ambien” ☺️

  8. September 13, 2020 at 11:12 am

    I’m not into rap, but Alicia Keys makes this song for me! I got to see her when she first started out. She was still a teenager when she performed at the Florida State Fairgrounds. No one knew who she was.

    • Christine Bolton
      September 13, 2020 at 8:16 pm

      That is so cool Lisa. An interesting fact about Alicia Keys – she was 15 years old and was offered a full scholarship to Columbia University. (She graduated HS at 16 as Valedictorian) and shortly after was offered a recording contract by Columbia records. ☺️ A very talented woman.

      • September 14, 2020 at 3:59 pm

        I remember that fact. I still have her songs on my old ITune account of Alicia Keys from when my daughter was a teenager. She’s going to be 28 this week. LOL! 🙂

      • Christine Bolton
        September 14, 2020 at 4:40 pm

        That’s so great Lisa. Yes, my son is almost 36! 😳 It’s hard to believe sometimes.

      • September 14, 2020 at 6:33 pm

        My son is 34 & my other daughter is 33. Where did the time go??? 😉

      • Christine Bolton
        September 14, 2020 at 8:48 pm

        I know right? Phew. Pretty soon they’ll be behaving like they are our parents!!

      • September 16, 2020 at 12:25 pm

        Well, that is already happening! My middle child has 3 girls and while she is a little more wild in her thinking process, she still does things that I did when they were kids. It’s hilarious when she calls me to say, “Mom, now I get it! Guess what I just said to ??? (one of her kids). You used to tell me that all the time”. I LOVE IT!!! 🙂

      • Christine Bolton
        September 16, 2020 at 3:44 pm

        That’s so funny! 🤣🤣

      • September 16, 2020 at 11:20 pm

        True story. 🤣

  9. September 13, 2020 at 11:05 am

    I can never comment on your blog except through reader. I like this choice and enjoy the contrast in the musical styles.

    • Christine Bolton
      September 13, 2020 at 11:13 am

      I have the same problem with some blogs. It happens when I use my iPad and an app that is always open. I usually am able to write the comment and the. Click on the WP icon and sign in easily with the stored info. Once I’ve done it with a blog once I’m in every time. Maybe it’s the same issue you have, then maybe not! 🤣
      Thanks for listening to the song Maggie ☺️💕

  10. September 13, 2020 at 10:11 am

    Good one! Never heard it before 🎶🙂

    • Christine Bolton
      September 13, 2020 at 10:27 am

      Thanks Paula ☺️

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