“Empire State of Mind” is a song by American rapper Jay-Z, featuring vocals sung by American singer Alicia Keys. Produced by Al Shux, Angela Hunte and Jane’t Sewell-Ulepic, it was released as the third single from Jay-Z’s 11th studio album, The Blueprint 3 (2009), by his Roc Nation label in October 2009. The song was written as a tribute to both artists’ hometown, New York City, and features a music sample of “Love on a Two-Way Street” (1970), written by Sylvia Robinson and Bert Keyes and performed by The Moments. The following month they submitted the song to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, whose reviews were a discouragement. Following an incident that Hunte and Sewell-Ulepic describe as an omen, they 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, changed the verses, and recorded it as a single.
The single was supposed to feature Hunte on the song’s 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. The song was viewed as being an “orchestral rap ballad” and has pop-rap musical styles. It contains references to various locations in New York and its famous residents, while describing the city’s essence. Profanity is present throughout the song and, although it is usually included during live performances, it was omitted during the performance at Game 2 of the 2009 World Series.
A critical success, the song was included in multiple critics’ top 10 list for the best songs of 2009; including Rolling Stone magazine and the New York Times. The song was also nominated for three Grammy Awards, winning Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. “Empire State of Mind” achieved commercial success worldwide. The track peaked within the top 10 in countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, France, Italy and Sweden. The single was commercially successful in the United States, peaking at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for five consecutive weeks, becoming Jay-Z’s first number-one single on the chart as a lead artist. It appeared in 2009 year-end charts in Italy, Australia and the US, where the song was also the last number one hit of the 2000s. As of June 2014, the single has sold over 5.5 million copies in the United States.
In the song’s music video, which is primarily in black-and-white, Jay-Z and Keys are shown performing the song in various locations in New York. “Empire State of Mind” has been performed by Jay-Z and Keys multiple times, including during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards and the 2009 American Music Awards. Usually when the duo performs the song, an overhead screen shows images of places in New York. Keys has recorded a sequel entitled “Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down”, which is featured on her fourth studio album The Element of Freedom (2009). Her version was positively received by critics and did well commercially, although it was not as successful as its predecessor. It was, however, Top 10 in the UK, the Netherlands and Ireland. She said that she chose to record her own version of “Empire State of Mind” because she wanted to express her own personal feelings about New York.