Grammy Recap: Jay-Z And Alicia Keys’ ‘Empire State Of Mind’ Wins 2 Grammy Awards; Producer And Co-Writers Reveal Details

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Mikey Fresh / February 14, 2011

Hip-hop’s big winner of the 53rd Grammy Awards came from Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind”, which won two Grammys ‘Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and ‘Best Rap Song.’ While the average listener may just hear Hov and A. Keys on the track, the end product was actually put together by an entire creative cast.

The song’s producer, Al Shux, who has worked closely with Lily Allen and produced for Lupe Fiasco and Snoop Dog says he was unsure if the song would even move in the direction of hip-hop.

“We didn’t have a complete vision of it, but it made sense,” Shux says from Grammy press room. “Obviously, there’s only one person that could have pulled it off. Jay-Z had itwrote his verses and then Alicia Keys came on and wrote the bridge.”

Shux told VIBE Dr. Dre, Gangstarr, and Snoop were among his biggest musical influence, “I’m a massive hip-hop fan—and I grew up on it.”

Aside from Shux, Alicia, and Jay—there were two more parties responsible for crafting the Big Apple anthem. Song writers Jane’t Sewell and Angela Hunte originated the song’s cinematic chorus.

“It was our personal love letter to New York, and we were hoping we would never have to give this song away. It was never meant to be given away. It was just meant to stay in iTunes and for us to listen to,” the duo explained to media backstage.

“We definitely didn’t see it as a rap song but our publisher relentlessly tried to get us to give the record to Jay-Z and finally convinced us to at least let him hear it. And he heard it and recorded it the next day,” they admit with a bit of laughter. “Our publisher had actually come up with the idea to bring someone into sing the chorus. To this day we’ve never spoken to them. We’re pretty introverted.”

Even with three Grammy wins, Jay-Z was nowhere to be found when his name was called. Politics as usual. —Mikey Fresh