"Empire State of Mind" (CD single)

Music review by
Jacqueline Rupp, Common Sense Media
"Empire State of Mind" (CD single) Music Poster Image
Popular with kids
Jay-Z's love letter to the Big Apple; some drug references.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 33 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this music.

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 & Representations

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 13-year-old Written byohya August 7, 2010
Parent of a 15-year-old Written bygarrison February 23, 2010


its all about biking for life
Kid, 12 years old December 10, 2020

"Baby I'm from New York!"

Parents need to know the following about Empire State of Mind:

1# The "N" word is used a few times throughout the song.

Now, that is all I know sinc... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byspeyan727 September 11, 2018

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.

Talk to your kids 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

  • Artist: Jay-Z
  • Release date: November 1, 2009
  • Label: ROC Nation
  • Genre: Rap
  • Parental advisory: Yes
  • Edited version available: Yes
  • Last updated: November 11, 2020

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