This month, Forbes’ Zack O’Malley Greenburg released his book Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went From Street Corner To Corner Office. The biography of Shawn Carter looks at Jay’s personal and business relationships, through comprehsive archival interviews and new and rare insights from the likes of mentor Jaz-O, paternal hustler DeHaven, Dame Dash, MC Serch, DJ Clark Kent, Branson and others.
The staff of HipHopDX thought we knew a lot about Jay-Z, but in the interest of supporting Hip Hop literacy, we thought we would share 10 things about Jay-Z from Empire State of Mind.
1. Jay-Z maintains that his name comes from a childhood family nickname of “jazzy,” not the popular belief that it was taken to match mentor Jaz-O’s name, or the J and Z train lines that stop at the Marcy station in Brooklyn.
2. Sauce Money, often mistakenly considered a Roc-A-Fella Records artist, was a collaborator suggested by DJ Clark Kent to try and get demo recognition. Additionally, Sauce was managed by then-NBA star Dennis Scott. Jay and Sauce would appear together on Big Daddy Kane’s Daddy’s Home album, a time in Jay’s career that Empire State of Mind sheds new light on.
3. Jay-Z would have likely been murdered during a 1994 shooting – if the assailants gun did not jam. Both DeHaven and Jaz-O, Jay’s then-musical and street guides, recall the event. One of them alludes to ‘making that problem go away’ too.
4. During his Def Jam presidency, Jay-Z helped collaborators The Roots clear a Radiohead sample, just hours before the clearance had to be made. Jay accomplished this through his direct relationship with the British band.
5. Jay-Z never forgets. The book interviews producer A Kid Called Roots, who’s known for his work with artists ranging from Memphis Bleek to Sha Stimuli. AKCR provides an anecdote claiming that during a Japanese performance, Jay recognized the Roc-affiliated producer in the crowd, and invited him to the stage for his then-hit, “Do My…”
6. Champagne wishes. Although it’s never formally said, Empire State of Mind suggests a number of interesting things about Jay-Z’s switch from musically-endorsing Cristal to Ace of Spades. The chapter includes revelations that longtime friend, collaborator and mid-’00s Island Def Jam executive Jermaine Dupri had a business relationship with the same people responsible for Ace of Spades, although Jay-Z has always maintained that there are no business ties to Armand De Brignac, Ace of Spades’ producer.
7. Jay-Z invested in Carol’s Daughter, a cosmetics line. While we hear about various Jay backings, this one slipped under the Hip Hop radar.
8. Jason Kidd was the first person that suggested to Jay-Z that he explore New Jersey Nets ownership. Count it.
9. MC Serch of 3rd Bass fame was responsible for making “the Jay-Z Jeep” nearly happening. An artistic contemporary of Jay’s, Serch presented the idea to both sides, although it never happened – a deal and series of events that the book delves into.
10. Jay-Z is still earning from Roc-A-Wear. Although the brand changed ownership, the book estimates that Jay receives close to $5 million dollars yearly off of the brand that he, Dame Dash, and Kareem Biggs started over a decade ago.