Zack O’Malley Greenberg is a New York based Forbes staff writer and author of ‘Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went From Street Corner To Corner Office’ – an unofficial biography about rapper and businessman Jay-Z. I get up close and personal with Zack in this interview where he talks about life, work and his plans for the future.
IN: You started writing at an early age. Describe your first writing experience.
ZG: I first started writing for Boys’ Life Magazine at age 14, reviewing video games. My first reviews were for the Sega Dreamcast, which I received weeks before it was available in stores. Needless to say, this was the best job a teenager could have.
IN: How did the idea of writing a biography about Jay Z come about?
ZG: I was approached by editors at Penguin’s Portfolio imprint who’d read my articles about the business of Hip Hop on Forbes.com, and they asked if I’d be interested in writing a business-focused biography of Jay-Z. How could I say no?
IN: For those who have not yet read Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office, what is it about?
ZG: It’s about how Jay-Z honed his entrepreneurial talents, moving from the streets of Brooklyn to the boardrooms of Manhattan and around the world. More info at www.zogreenburg.com/empire-state-of-mind
IN: Is there anything about Jay Z that surprised or shocked you when researching about him for the biography?
ZG: I won’t say it shocked me, but I think it’s very interesting that everyone I talked to said one of his excellent habits is simply asking people how things work, especially early in his career. How does that deal work? How are royalties computed? He was always intellectually curious, and he has absorbed the lessons from early in his career.
IN: What do you think contributed to the success of the biography?
ZG: It’s the only book about the business of Jay-Z, and I think there’s a very strong appetite out there for those looking for a blueprint to follow.
IN: Is there any chance of turning Empire State of Mind into a movie one day?
ZG: I’d love to!
IN: Who are some of the most interesting people you have interviewed?
ZG: 50 Cent | Afrika Bambaataa | Alicia Keys | Akon | Bill Gates (sort of) | Bruno Mars | Flo Rida | Hip-Hop Cash Kings | Jay-Z | Justin Bieber | Lil Jon | Mr. T | Russell Simmons | T.I. | Timbaland | Wiz Khalifa
IN: Do you listen to Hip Hop?
ZG: Of course! I grew up on Hip Hop and Grunge Rock.
IN: You have been in the journalism industry for quite a long time. What are some of your career highlights?
ZG: The book, for sure. A recent highlight was convincing Jon Bon Jovi to play a mini-concert at Forbes with Warren Buffett.
IN: You’ve had an exciting, successful career. What do you think contributes to your success?
ZG: I really just try to have interesting conversations with interesting people, that’s what it boils down to. And once I do, I try to put the reader right there with me.
IN: Any last words for our readers?
ZG: Thanks so much for reading – it’s great to know there are people out there who are so fascinated by the same stuff I am.
- By Innoe Ndlovu