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
Lyrics 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 [Jay-Z:] 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 [Jay-Z:] 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