One of the very first lyrics on here goes “I can make it anywhere, yeah, they love me everywhere” and it’s not hard to believe Jay-Z when he says so, or even more, to realize that he’s already achieved that. 2009’s The Blueprint 3 became his eleventh number-one album in the U.S., breaking the record previously held by Elvis Presley. Singles-wise the album was just as successful, with five charted hits including a collaboration with Kanye West and Rihanna (Run This Town), a criticism of the excessive use of auto-tune (D.O.A.) and an ode to New-York (Empire State of Mind).
The last of them is the only one that managed to climb all the way to the top of the charts, a first in Jay-Z’s discography. Empire State of Minds drips with references to the rapper’s hometown. The title is a nod to both Nas’ N.Y. State of Mind and Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind, while the lyrics pay homage to even more of the city’s trademark names and references – actor Robert De Niro, Frank Sinatra’s classic song New York New York, baseball team the New York Yankees, or the Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Center.
Helping with the chorus is another New Yorker, the pop singer Alicia Keys. Jay-Z recalls making a last-minute decision of replacing Mary J. Blige who was the original choice for that part. Apparently, it was the piano loop sampled from The Moments’ Love on a Two-Way Street that made the rapper consider Keys, whose main instrument has always been the piano.
Empire State of Mind spent 5 consecutive weeks at number one in Billboard Top 100 before being dethroned by Kesha’s Tik Tok.