Hey, what about this “Empire State of Mind” song?
It is by the fabulously successful Jay-Z, the rapper everyone likes.
(My mom, my President, my landlord, my mailman. Just everybody.)
And lately this song of his has been all over large-market urban radio thanks to the combined efforts of Ennis Communications and the Power 106 DJs, Roc Nation, Sony Music Entertainment, and the eternal influence of Lyor Cohen, North American President and CEO of Warner Music Group. Are you in love with this song like I am? Because you should be. Here's why.
1. It's a summertime song. Sincere, enthusiastic, shiny, booming.
“Empire State” is a summer song, but for some reason it got held back during the year and it's now an early fall banger? It's OK; I'll take it. Even though my people who live in places where they actually have seasons tell me that it's no longer summer and that it is, in fact, autumn times right now, the speakers in my Civic out from which this song pours and the fact that it's 78 degrees outside today says that it's still summer, glorious summer. Also, it pours from my headphones in apt. 302. A lot, lately. Like 5 or 6 times today already. Loudly.
Its thesis lacks originality - NYC is great, it's a concrete jungle, there are 8 million stories, bumpkins go there to try to hit it big and usually fail but goddammit it's not the city's fault - and yet: this song fills me with joy down deep in my soul with its anthemic beauty. Growing up in Cali, you get used to hearing on the radio about how great NY is. Every kid here can name 10 New York MCs no problem, 2 from each borough, but coming up with 10 (good) rappers from Cali who aren't named Snoop and who aren't part of the Hiero crew is a touch more difficult. Sad, but what can you do. This song just provides further convincing that NY is superior to _____ . Plus I'm still loving the lack of irony in popular rap music; I can take the song at face value, I don't have to work hard to figure out the speakers' message. There's no mystery or sarcasm within. And that bum-bum-bummm of the piano and that chorus that swells up! Let's hear it for Newww Yorrrrk!, Alicia yells. Basically, my point is do you have ears? The shit is like the “More Than a Feeling” of oh-nine. I closed my eyyyyyes/and I slipped a-wayyyyy.
2. Two samples full of soul and all good things in life.
a) The Moments - “Love on a 2-Way Street.” Once again, I must direct your attention toward that piano. Bum-bum-bummm.
The break was previously rubbed & tugged into hip-hop finery by some Oh-three/Oh-four Bratty Chicago Talent, was I not just talking about him?
Consequence - “So Soulful.”
b) Isaac Hayes - “The Breakthrough.” There is a cure for everything in life that bothers or distresses us, and it involves taking our pants off. Below, we have the perfect soundtrack for pants-less activity. Press play.
(Nice job flipping and bouncing the break, “Empire State” producer Al Shux - even though I doubt you really exist because my people would have alerted me to your presence in the world at some point leading up to now.)
3. General lyrical delights.
Nas semi-nod (or maybe a Billy Joel nod, who knows), Special Ed shout, Bambaataa shout, E shout (it does make you feel like a champion, but are people really still doing it? I thought 1998 came and went-?), Biblical pun (“don't bite the apple, Eve”), a mention of the spouse's Lone Star homeland, plus Jay’s flow sounding more relaxed and his voice sounding slightly scratchy with age (I like it). I bet you he recorded this at 5 AM after working a lonnnng day and probably wearing a really nice suit.
4. Sports stuff, drug stuff,
including but not limited to the use of “Spike Lee” as an adjective. Jay's so Spiked out/He could trip a referee. If Jeezy payin LeBron, he says, Then I'm payin Dwyane Wade. You guys, you know I love a 2010 NBA-unrestricted-free-agent reference/powder-infused trap reference in my pop music! Plus he got the US Open! Advantage: Jigga!
5. No mention of sparkly rocks,
which makes me hopeful that perhaps someday soon everyone will stop doing this.