“Empire State of Mind” is a song performed by the rapper Jay-Z featuring vocals by Alicia Keys, from Jay-Z’s 11th studio album, The Blueprint 3 (2009). The song was originally written by Angela Hunte and Janet Sewell-Ulepic as a tribute to their hometown, New York City. The following month, they submitted it to Jay-Z’s label Roc Nation, whose reviews were a discouragement. They later took the suggestion of an associate of EMI Music Publishing and resubmitted it to Jay-Z, who kept the “New York” singing part on the hook but changed the verses and recorded it.
The song originally featured Hunte on the hook, but when Hunte and Sewell-Ulepic were asked if they thought anyone else would be more appropriate for the chorus, Hunte suggested Keys. Mary J. Blige was also considered for the part, but Keys was chosen after Jay-Z heard the song’s piano loop. “Empire State of Mind” contains songwriting contributions from Keys and Shux. The song was described by critics as an “orchestral rap ballad” with “crashing piano chords” and a “soaring” hook. It contains references to various locations in New York and its famous residents, while describing the city’s essence.
A critical success, the song was included in multiple critics’ top 10 lists of the best songs of 2009, including Rolling Stone magazine and The New York Times. It was also nominated for three Grammy Awards, winning Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. The song achieved commercial success worldwide. It peaked within the top 10 in many countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, France, Italy and Sweden. In the US, the song topped the Billboard Hot 100 for five consecutive weeks, becoming Jay-Z’s first number-one single on the chart as a lead artist.
It has been performed by Jay-Z and Keys multiple times, including during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards and the American Music Awards of 2009. Usually when the duo performs the song, an overhead screen shows images of places in New York.
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