"Empire State of Mind" (CD single)

Common Sense Media says

Jay-Z's love letter to the Big Apple; some drug references.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

The rap lyrics present the good and the bad of NYC, covering everything from being upwardly mobile to getting caught in a life of crime. "Eight million stories out there and they're naked, cities is a pity, half of y'all won't make it."

Positive role models

The song details the lives of New Yorkers and warns about the pitfalls of the big city, while encouraging listeners to reach for their dreams. "In New York, where concrete jungles are made of, there's nothing you can't do, now you're in New York, these streets will make you feel brand new."


One line includes some sexual innuendo: "Mami took a bus trip and now she got her bust out, everybody ride her, just like a bus route."


The N-word is used three times and "s--t" is uttered twice.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Frequent talk of drug-dealing includes lines like: "Welcome to the melting pot, corners where we sell rock." There's also a mention of MDMA (better known as ecstasy) and its empowering effects.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know this single is milder than most rap songs and cleaner than most of Jay-Z's other works. There are a few questionable traits to the song, however, that make it best for teens and up. First, there's the use of the N-word, plus a few other expletives. Then there are the references to drugs and drug dealing found in a few spots on the single. Overall the track balances out the good with the bad of the city that never sleeps, dropping names and neighborhoods while throwing out warnings about the trappings of urban life.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

It's no surprise that EMPIRE STATE OF MIND is a song all about the trials and triumphs of New York City. After-all, rapper Jay-Z is a native of the town, as is his guest on the single, Alicia Keys. With a sampling from the old-school "Love on a Two-Way Street" by The Moments and grand chorus by Keys, this song pays tribute to Jay's birthplace and the town where he first learned to rhyme and hustle. The song follows in a musical tradition of celebrating the Big Apple, with this single playing at most Yankees home games when Derek Jeter comes up to bat.

Is it any good?


Although "Empire State of Mind" has the same bravado you'd expect from Jigga, there's also a sentimental tone seldom heard from the rap superstar. This is Jay-Z's love song to his town. "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." But the rapper isn't blinded by this love affair and pays equal attention to the hardships found in the city. Alicia Keys's vocals add a power to the single that is difficult to resist. Her siren's call about the infinite possibilities of the city are enough to tempt listeners into booking a trip to the city ASAP.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the media's definition of success. Rappers often like to brag about their money and their status, just like Jay-Z does on this track. Do you think these rags-to-riches tales can be inspiring to listeners or confusing? Can everyone expect to go from hustling on the streets to being a multi-millionaire?

  • What do you think of music that uses the N-word? Do you think it's acceptable to use the word in rap songs? If so, does repeatedly hearing the word in music desensitize you to the effects of the racial slur?

  • Families can talk about New York City. How has the city been portrayed in film and music and on television? Why do you think NYC has been the subject of so much attention? What are your impressions of New York? Do you think there are other cities that compare to it? Also, does all the media attention make New York appear even more important and grand than it actually is, or are artists just picking up on the city's natural vibe?

Music details

Release date:November 1, 2009
Label:ROC Nation
Parental advisory:Yes
Edited version available:Yes

This review of "Empire State of Mind" (CD single) was written by

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  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
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Kid, 10 years old February 16, 2010

Empire State Of Mind Has On For 10 + 14 Years Old

Empire State Of Mind Has On For 10 + 14 Years Old
Kid, 10 years old January 16, 2010

75% Bad

This is a song where jay-z brags about his money and talks about his mom being a prostitute. Alot Of Sexual Refrenses. The Swearing is not that bad they say the f- word once and say the n-word twice. not as bad as the sexual content. and talking about getting drunk.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages
Parent of a 15 year old Written bygarrison February 23, 2010


its all about biking for life
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great messages


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