JAY-Z has shared an updated version of his career-renaissance single "Empire State of Mind" which now features the late Gil Scott-Heron.
In 2009, JAY-Z dropped the disappointing Blueprint 3, a record that was heralded as the third installment of his career-defining opus The Blueprint. While the album itself was a bust, it did include the song "Empire State of Mind," a track that immediately became the new anthem of New York City and one that still can be heard blasting across the five boroughs (and around the world) today. At this point, the song feels a bit dated and the Alicia Keys lyric "concrete jungle where dreams are made of" has become iconic in its own right. Not for being good, but for actually making no sense whatsoever. Still, if you lived in the city upon the song's release or live here now, you know the impact the song still has whenever it comes over the sound system. Over the past weekend, Jay performed his first show in four years. Naturally, he played the song. However, instead of playing the one we all know and love, he presented a new version that interpolates the late, great Gil Scott-Heron's "New York Is Killing Me." Over Heron's rough and scratchy beat, Jay drops the new iconic rhymes and breathes new life into the song. This version feels as tough and gritty as the city it is named for and while it might not be set to overtake the original as the one you'll hear in clubs and bars around the world, it's one that might actually be the one you prefer to hear at this point. Handclaps make up the beat and skronking trumpet mixes with electric guitar riffs that really let Hov take the center spotlight while Scott-Heron's gruff voice gives it the grit the original lacked.