It was about three weeks ago when listening to Hot108.com I heard what sounded like Jay-Z and a booming chorus sung by some lady. A couple quick clicks later from the RealAudio player and it was cool to see the name Alicia Keys. But of course! Empire State Of Mind even got ol’ “golden aged” me wanting to memorize the lyrics of a rap tune for the first time since Check The Rime by A Tribe Called Quest. Got me juiced about coming back to NYC for the 4th annual Gotham Games tournament this December 19-20, 2009 hosted by Dream League New York.
Incidentally, the above is a pic of ref Charles “Stick” Crawford, who appeared at Dream League Bay Area’s Fall-Winter league launch this past Sunday with a new haircut (or lack thereof). I couldn’t believe the resemblance! From now on, we must call him “Stigga”. You know, Stick mashed with Jigga. And get this, Stick’s Stigga’s nickname from the local Oaktown dreamleaguers is none other than “Downtown”. Manhattan = Uptown/Downtown!
So anyways, I can’t believe a critic could call any of Jay-Z’s work “[feeling] dangerously close to rote”! That’s like sitting in a Chicago bistro looking up at a 15″ television bolted just below the ceiling, and seeing Michael Jordan, in only his 4th game back from retirement, light up the Atlanta Hawks for 18 of his 32 points in the 3rd quarter, only to cap it off with a buzzer-beater — and calling that “rote”. Yeah, I was really there in that little Chicago restaurant on March 25, 1995, exactly one week after his return, paying no attention to my food or my company, fixated on that CRT, that small memory etched and treasured in my brain.
I mean, after all these years, you can’t fall into that trap of taking greatness for granted. C’mon!
In an old dreamblogue post called The passion of community basketball, via the VH-1 Hip Hop Honors series — the first time I really learned about JZ because during my personal “saturated rap” era I kind of took a break from the genre — I referenced JZ’s passion, hard work, and determination (near the end of the post) in comparison to how the Poor Man’s Commishes out there keep running their tournaments and leagues. Man, JZ’s a role model for us all.
I wish I coulda been there in the studio seeing it all happen. Like watching MJ in practice or shootaround, then putting it all together for real. Can you imagine watching JZ puttin’ work with no pencil and paper needed? Then picture Russell Simmons, Spike Lee, Special Ed, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and maybe even Sean Combs hearing this track for the first, second, or third time, chuckling at the shout-outs in the lyrics and feeling some pride in the anthem to the City, shaking their heads in respect during the third verse and saying to themselves, “He’s back and he’s still got it.” I’ll betcha it was like Shaq, Reggie Miller, and Gary Payton watching highlights of his Airness’ buzzer-beater in Atlanta, shaking their heads in respect, and saying, “He’s back and he’s still got it.” Here’s Alicia Keys giving us a tiny bit of an insight…
“I always figured that we would do some type of collaboration, and finally, it came together with this. He reached out to me said, ‘I have this big New York record. I feel its right for us to do it together. It has this big Frank Sinatra, take-it-there feeling. I feel like you could really do something with it.’
“I went by [the studio], took a listen to it,” she continued. “I really felt the energy of New York all through it. It felt classic, it felt so good; the piano obviously was in there. I said, ‘I love it, so let’s do it.’ We communicated a lot during the process. I think we both are really happy with how it came out.”
So, to appreciate a living legend and like dissecting highlights of an MJ classic in slow motion, I hereby present the correct and annotated lyrics of the track that epitomizes the honed and refined skills of a master.
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, yeah they love me everywhere
I used to cop in Harlem, all of my Dominicanos
right there up on Broadway, brought me back to that McDonald’s
took it to my stash spot, 560 State Street
catch me in the kitchen like a Simmons whipping Pastry
cruising down 8th Street, off-white Lexus
driving so slow, but BK1 is from Texas
me I’m out ‘that Bed-Stuy, home of that boy Biggie
now I live on Billboard, and I brought my boys with me
say wat up to Ty Ty, still sippin’ Mai Tais
sittin’ courtside, Knicks and Nets give me high fives
n-gga I be Spiked out, I could trip a referee
tell by my attitude that I’m most definitely from
in New York
concrete jungle where dreams are made of
there’s nothing you can’t do
now you’re in New York
these streets will make you feel brand new
big lights will inspire you
let’s hear it for New York, New York, New York
catch me at the X with OG2, at a Yankee game
sh-t I made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can
you should know I bleed blue, but I ain’t a crip tho
but I got a gang of n-ggas walking with my clique tho
welcome to the melting pot, corners where we selling rock
Afrika Bambaataa sh-t, home of the hip hop
Yellow cab, Gypsy cab, Dollar cab holla back
for foreigners that ain’t fit they act like they forgot how to act3
eight million stories out there in the naked
city it’s a pity half of y’all won’t make it
me I gotta plug Special Ed “I Got It Made”
if Jesus’ payin’ LeBron, I’m payin’ Dwyane Wade
three dice cee-lo, three card molly
Labor Day parade, rest in peace Bob Marley
Statue of Liberty, long live the World Trade, long live the King4 yo
I’m from the Empire State5 that’s
6lights is blinding, girls need blinders
or they can step out of bounds quick, the sidelines is
blind with casualties who sippin’ life casually
then gradually become worse, don’t bite the apple Eve
caught up in the in-crowd, now you’re in style
and as the winter gets cold, en vogue with your skin out
City of Sin, it’s a pity on a whim
good girls gone bad, the city’s filled with them
Mommy took a bus trip, now she got her bust out
everybody ride her just like a bus route
Hail Mary to the city you’re a virgin
and Jesus can’t save you, life starts when the church ends
came here for school, graduated to the high life
ball players, rap stars addicted to the limelight
MDMA got you feeling like a champion
the city never sleeps better slip you a Ambien
one hand in the air for the big city
street lights, big dreams all looking pretty
no place in the world that can compare
put your lighters in the air, everybody say yeaaahh
I think this is a reference to the countless number of pickup trucks that speed by you in Beyonce Knowles’ home state of Texas (I once had first-hand experience in Houston at 2006 All-Star).
I think Jigga’s saying that you can spot him accompanied by any OG at any (“X”) event. Then I believe he moves on to a new sentence that actually starts with “At a Yankee game…” he can make a Yankee hat, etc., as opposed to seeing him specifically at a Yankee game with the aforementioned “any OG”. This is significant because Jay is saying that even at a Yankee game, not just in general and with his presence there, he makes the Yankees more famous than the Yankees themselves.
In his live performance at the MTV Music Awards, the slide show in the background shows a picture of the outside of the Apollo Theatre with Michael Jackson’s name on it. Speaking of passion, how about the King MJ’s passion? Now that’s a role model to the role models!
Wouldn’t it be funny if Weird Al Yankovic did a parody of this song called Golden State Of Mind, which chronicled the futility of the Warriors?
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