A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this music.
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.
- 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.
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?