How to Turn $60 Bottles of Champagne Into $300 Bottles of Champagne | Exploring the Magic Behind How Dr. Dre, Jay-Z and Diddy Earned Their Fortunes (An interview with Forbes Senior Editor and best-selling author Zack O’Malley Greenburg)
Senior editor for Forbes, Zach O’Malley Greenburg shares the stories behind his three best-selling books including: 3 Kings: Diddy, Dr. Dre, Jay-Z and Hip-Hop’s Multibillion-Dollar Rise (Little, Brown, 2018); Michael Jackson, Inc. (Simon & Schuster / Atria, 2014) and the Jay-Z biography Empire State of Mind (Penguin / Portfolio, 2011).
Zack O’Malley Greenburg
Find Zack’s Book Here – 3 Kings: Diddy, Dr. Dre, Jay-Z, and Hip-Hop’s Multibillion-Dollar Rise
Welcome back to the conversation. It is the thrive time show on your radio. And on today’s show I could not be more excited to interview. Uh, today’s guest, today’s guest, Zack O’Malley Greenburg that Zack O’malley Greenburg. He is a senior editor for Forbes magazine, Forbes Dot Com. If you ever see the hip hop’s our richest, the richest list already, the lists involving where they’ll actually show the wealth of hip hop entrepreneurs and how they earned their wealth. It’s usually the article is usually written by Mr Zack O’malley Greenburg, and since graduating from Yale with a degree in American studies, Zack O’malley Greenburg. Today’s guest has gone on to become not only the senior editor of media and entertainment at Forbes, but he’s also the author of three best selling books. His most recent book, three kings chronicles the lives of Diddy, Dr Dre, Jay z and the the rise of the hip hop multimillion dollar industry, the multibillion dollar industry.
He’s also written Michael Jackson Inc. Hey simon, schuster, simon and schuster release, which came out in 2014, which documented the rise and fall and then the return of the Michael Jackson empire. Also, He’s written a book called empire state of mind and I absolutely love empire State of mind. That book was released by penguin and that book is incredible. Explains to you how jay z essentially went from the street corner to a corner office. Folks. This guy is filled with knowledge, but you might be Saying to yourself, well, why do I, why do I care how hip hop? You know, how rappers made billions of dollars? Well, what’d you got to understand about a hip hop artists? And I’ll start with, uh, with diddy who uSed to go by the name puff daddy is at his core. I believe him to be an. I believe that a p diddy, puff daddy Sean Combs.
I believe that he is an entrepreneur at his core. I really, really do believe that jay z iS an entrepreneur and that is core. I really do believe that dr dre is just an entrepreneur. Uh, you know, dr dre was one of the first turntable lists to really make a change in the way music was formatted. He’s one of the first people to make hip hop music mainstream. He was part of the group in w dot a, which stands for, ah, I won’t mention it on the but nwa. Then you think about, you know, jay z, jay z, I was one of the first rappers to really become a household name for everybody. I think everybody knows jay z and his wife, beyonce. uh, these guys have it combined. Net worth right now have billions of dollars. And as at the time of the recording of today’s talk, uh, you have an estimate are showing it from forbes that sean diddy combs is now worth $825 million dollars.
And dr dre, remember dr dre, he teamed up to build beats headphones. He’s worth an estimated $770 million dollars. Think about that. Jay z is worth an estimated $900,000,000. I mean these guys are doing well. Jay z’s worth 900 million. Sean diddy combs is worth eight, 25 and dr dre is worth an estimated $770,000,000. And so in his new book, three kings, he document how they did it and I’m just telling you, if you look at the books that he’s written that I’ve read, there are notes everywhere and there are action items from cover to cover. So many practical steps that you can apply in your own life and business. So ladies and gentlemen, family and friends, I know he can’t hear you, but please join me in welcoming these senior editor with forbes. That’s zack o’malley greenburg onto the show. Zach, welcome to the thrive time show. I am a massive fan of your work. How are you doing?
Very well. thank you. Thank you for having me on.
Hey, I own two copies of your book, eMpire, state of mind, the one where you break down the life and times of jay z dot. I do have one for the man cave. have one for the office, uh, I gotta say it’s kind of weird, but one is spend a lot of time with me in the bathtub and taken notes highlighting. And what impresses me about your books is that you do exhaustive research, you do exhaustive research and one of the first things I saw you writing about back in the day was this thing called the hip hop cash kings. Can you share with us why as a writer at forbes you decided to start tracking the hip hop cash kings?
Yeah. Well it was 2007. I had Just graduated from college and started out at forbes as a newbie reporter and I was sitting there in my cubicle and all of a sudden an editor came up and she said, hey, you’re under 30, do you like hip hop? And I said, I love hip hop. She said, great, well I want you to hElp me put together the first ever package on the top earning rappers. And I said, let’s go. So I ended up reading the story about two pocs at core, who at the time was making more money dead than most rappers were alive. And then we ran this sidebar that we called the podcast kings and it was the top earning a rappers who were alive and the top three were jay z and fifty cents and we’ve shipped off the uh, magazine and I thought that was fun and you didn’t really cross my mind again until I was out in New Mexico for a different story reporting and a driving around the desert. I heard this song pop on the radio and it went for one, two, three. Alright, get money. I get money in
is going on.
It was jay z and diddy and 50 percent. And they had put together the song to celebrate the launch of the hip hop cash kings list. And I think it was the first time a major publication had had really recognized hip hop in that way. I mEan there had been kind of one off stories and a lot of sort of novelty type features. And. But this was us saying, you know, here’s the definitive accounting of earnings in this legit business, and it became an annual event and uh, and shortly after the first one came out, the editor left and took a different job and she said, you should make this your thing. And uh, I did. So she gave me a context and I’d ran with it and kind of developed it into being, into being my baby. really.
I don’t mean to you or anybody who readS copious amounts of books and does a lot of research as a nerd. I would just classify myself as a nerd. I love research. When you are in your car in New Mexico and you hear I get money and you hear It and you’re going in at the end, jay z hopson with the verse and talks about forbes.com. W, were you crying? Were you hugging the dashboard where you could you take a shower?
I just remember thinking, holy cow, business journalism is a lot cooler than I ever thought it would be. A, you know, uh, and I think a lot of people at forbes, you know, they thought about that too, like, oh my gosh, here’s a, here’s an audience that we have not been serving and a slice of big business that we have not been covering and that really nobody had been covering in that way.
Now you are working on this thing called the forbes five where it’s the hip hop’s wealthier wealthiest artists of 2018 and the hip hop. They’re kind of the future mogul list. Can you share with us about the, the forbes five and the hip hop’s future mogul list?
Sure. So There’s three main hip hop franchises within forbes. Now, there’s that original cash kings list, which are the highest paid acts on an annual basis. There’s the forbes five, which is the five wealthiest grab acts overall in terms of net worth. And then there’s the future moguls list, which is a qualitative, uh, it kind of a cousin of our 30 under 30 list. So it’s every year know the 10 rappers, producers, et cetera. The hip hop musicians who we feel are the most likely to one day become members of the vital of those two other lists and uh, you know, they’re all rolled out throughout the year. I generally, you know, few months in between each one and, and those are sort of the three main focal Points for hip hop coverage at forbes.
You gave a tedx talk, you’ve given a lot of talk since then, but you gave a tedx talk and I liked that talk because it was just you rocking the mic for a good half hour of power and you were talking about dr dre, jay z and diddy, how they hit earned at that point, a combined $740 million dollars in 2014. And according to all estimates I can find now a shawn jc carter is now worth about 900 million. I believe sean diddy combs is worth about eight, 25. And dr dre sitting around seven 70 my friend. I’d love to have you share your thoughts about how these three men built their, their fortune. So it’s not stale. It’s an astounding number. Can you share with us the a and e you go take them in whatever order you want, but dre, jay z, diddy, how did these guys go about amassing fortunes?
It’s a fascinating question. That’s why I wrote my last book about three kings and it kind of digs into, into the story of each one and then, you know, kind of the backdrop of the, the broader narrative of hip hop. And you know, what, what these guys all did is they took this thing that had been created in the south bronx and, you know, in the, in the seventies and eighties, and, and, uh, you know, turned it into something that was more than that. This worldwidE empire, this way of life. They took hip hop and turned it into a monetize mobile lifestyle grant. And so it all kind of goes back to that one way or the other. Uh, you know, despite having the same job description of hip hop mogul, all three of them are incredibly different characters. So if you want to think about it like teenage mutant ninja turtles, um, I just didn’t use michelangelo.
You know, he’s a party guy, he’s like cowabunga, you know, that whole thing. He’s a consummate salesman and um, you know, maybe dr dre is done at tello. He’s kind of a handy one. These very focused focused on technology, uh, you know, kind of what’s next and maybe a little quieter and then a jv I think is l you, you sort of the wise cracking one kind of fitting in the back, uh, you know, coming, coming, using, surviving off of his wit and um, and so they’ve each kind of taken their own traits and it made the most sense of duty, his way of doing everything. Just kind of what I like to call a shock and awe marketing. He’s in your face, he’s a, you know, he’s, he’s with the ciroc vodka, you know, in, in the youtube videos. He’s doing commercials. He’s, you know, he’s tweeting about it. He, uh, he, he’s very much not understated, right? He’s, he’s just out there
in your face all the time. Dr dre is kind of more quiet and, and you know, you spend, if you look back at his career, he’s really spent his whole time kind of in the lab crafting things and working for ages, you know, I mean we can only put out a few albums and the multi decade career and uh, you know, each one it seems to spend a decade, a decade on and same with his magnum opus in terms of business which is beat. So that’s really the only maJor deals you’ve done outside of music and running as a label with. That’s, you know, that’s also part of the new thing. So a beats being that, that kind of culmination of all those years of working on something and then you have jay z who’s kind of in the middle and you know, he, he has a bunch of different things. He relies on his cleverness and he relies on, on kind of creating a cache if cultural cache for himself by putting out new music, popularity, beyonce, things like that that will, that will kind of keep his name out and people being interested in him. And, and then wanting to associate with the brand that you’re involved with as well.
When you wrote the book, your newest book, what inspired you to write this book? Because if for people out there who are not familiar with your writing, I’m not just saying this because you’re a guest, you go deep man. You’re like the submarine. You’re in the basement, you are going to the magma. It’s awesome. Like your article about the wu tang clan and their album and they’re, they’re, they’re one coffee of their album and you go so deep in his awesome. So you have to just, you go, you go so deep, you go so deep. I’m just telling you, I get worried about you. You’re so deep and because you’ve got to come up for air this guy. So when you go deep, how did you decide to write this? What inspired you to write this book? Three kings,
frankly. In all honesty, I had already done a jv book. My second book was about Michael Jackson and what I really wanted to do with a book just on diddy and in fact initially when I got the jv book deal, this is back in 2009 when I got to deal a penguins. The publisher came to me and they said, we want a book on jay z diddy. And uh, we decided For a number of reasons to go to jay z. And then, you know, by the time I’d finished the Michael Jackson book, I was ready to do the city book, but by that point they had kind of moved on and, and they actually demand. I saT down with my agents. I sat down with an editor and the editor wanted was another book about jay z. Okay.
I didn’t want to do that because I had already done it. I wanted to write this book. My agent wanted a book about dr dre. And I thought, well, you know, I mean, these are the three wealthiest guys in hip hop. Um, what if we put it all together and call it three kings? And I remember just kind of crystallizing in my mind as I was, uh, I was staying at my godmother’s pills place out in long island and by the beach and I was just kind of in this very relaxed frame of mind and I walked out on the table, she had a copy of the innovators by walter isaacson and I thought, gee, you know, what, if, what if we do that, but for hip hop, you know, we take the, the kind of the three greatest wealth creation minds and hip hop and tell their stories.
And um, so that’s what I ended up doing. And, and I think the book, you know, three kings is about three things. There’s a biographical aspect. So you see kind of the details, how each of them came up. You get the background on the history of hip hop, like you said, the very deep dive. And then lastly, it’s really a blueprint. Um, and it’s a blueprint for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to go in and you don’t, maybe they’re not as charismatic or as diddy or as handy as dre. Um, but, you know, maybe there’s a, you can follow kind of one of those, usually between the three of those guys are so different. There are usually things that you can take out of theIr career paths and apply it to your own, even if you’re not in anything related to the entertainment business at all.
I didn’t ask you to do exhaustive research on me before interviewing you, but, uh, uh, the book life and death by Russell Simmons, that book is what inspired me to start my fIrst company dj connection that I sold. And at the time I sold it there, zach, we were doing about 4,000 weddings and events per year. But there are so many actionable things you can apply to your own life if you will read biographies and autobiographies and case studies. You can apply them in the way you write, you write for forbes. So the way you’re writing, it’s not a, a casual, vague understanding. It’s very linear. It’s very specific. It’s very detailed. And in your book about jay z, um, you talked a lot about, um, jay z’s, how he generated some serious wealth. And one of the ways he did that was he took the rejection that he received from a company called iceberg and ultimately lead to, it ultimately led to the creation of rockoware, if, if I, if I’m getting that correct, can you share about how jay z is rejection from iceberg fueled him to build something big
early on his career was rapping about a lot of it. Things like a lot of rappers were at the time from crystal champagne to whatever it was, gucci or a mercedes benz, etc. So she had been rapping about this european brand called iceberg and you know, suddenly he, he thought, well, you know, we’re, we’re giving these guys all this publicity, um, why don’t we try to get something out of it for ourselves. So he and his business partner, damon dash and went to have a meeting with the folks that iceberg. And they were basically laughed out of the room, the iceberg. People barely even wanted to give them free clothing. And so they, they kind of figured, well, you know, we can do better. Why don’t we, why don’t we start our uncles in line? Uh, and theY actually connected with Russell Simmons at this time.
He was at def jam when they kind of got his advice. He had already started phat farm, so he kinda hooked them up, um, with the, the, uh, the people who would actually, you know, companies that actually produce the clothing so that they could, you know, get a cooling line up very quickly and that became rockoware. And, and I think actually that became kind of more broadly a strategy that jay z and used throughout his career. Um, why would I rap about anything that I’m not getting paid for it. so, you know, you go and you look at everything he’s done over the years. I’m from closing to liquor to cars. He’s actually had ventures, uh, in all these areas, other zones. So rock rockwell, obviously with the clothing line, he’s got do, say cognac now, and armand de brignac champagne, which is a whole other great story about how that came about.
And he even had a, a gz jeep that was supposed to come together. And this has been about a decade ago and it never really quite worked out. And this is all in my book, empire state of mind, but, um, you know, it, it, uh, it continues through to this day. I mean, you see him with the budweiser made in America festival and uh, you know, their, their coronas in, in his instagram shots with beyonce and you know, that all goes back to budweiser, anheuser busch, et cetera, et cetera. So, uh, you know, everything happens for a reason with him and there’s really no such thing as a coincidence when any brand is involved with jv.
This is not accurate, but I believe that I read this is, this is many moons ago, but I believe that you did yoga with diddy. I mean, you’re close to these people. Did you actually do yoga with diddy?
I never did yoga With diddy. A colleague of mine did yoga with Russell Simmons.
I know I, I’ve interviewed both of them. I’ve never done yoga with either. There was also, I think a period of time when Russell Simmons was trying to get dad to do yoga and a and it didn’t really, uh, I think.
Have you been to tulsa, Oklahoma before? Zack? Have you ever been to tulsa, Oklahoma?
Um, I have not been to Oklahoma city, but.
Well let me take, let me tell you something. You’re missing out on the center of the universe, in the center of the hip hop. Really, the undiscovered artists that will probably remain undiscovered is tulsa, Oklahoma, and if you came to the tourist capital of America, tulsa, Oklahoma, we are working on something new called broga. It’s a combination of brothers and yoga. And so I just give you invited diddy to do broga. He would see. He would say yes. And my favorite position is sleeping. Bear, by the way, it’s hard. It sounds harder than it is. These are just, these are cutting edge trends that we give to you freely, freely stuff. Now I’d like for you to share. Can you share with us a little bit about the character of Russell Simmons, you, you’ve interviewed the guy, you’ve spent time studying him. Can you share with us a little bit about the character? Because Russell Simmons is one of my favorite authors and he’s made a. He’s been a big inspiration for me. he’s argued with a father, uh, one of the founders of hip hop music there with cofounding def jam. Talk to us about the character of Russell Simmons.
Yeah. Well, you know, I mean, unfortunately I’m not so great. I mean if you read some of the stuff that’s come out over the past year, so, um, you know, it, it, uh, in terms of the me too movement. I mean he’s, he’s been sort of the poster child of what not to do from the music perspective, a music industry side of things. So, you know, they still a one can’t really tell the story of the business of hip hop without telling the story of Russell Simmons and how he found the def jam with rick rubin and helps run dmc and so forth and manage them and did things like setting up the first shoe deal that they had with adidas. Um, he invited these executives over from Germany to come watch their show at the garden in the eighties and he had them play my adidas and so all of a sudden 15,000 people are holding up their shell toe sneakers and the executives from Germany are looking on like, oh my god, this is the best marketing campaign ever. I mean, it wasn’t even a marketing campaign. It was all organic. So that led to a million dollars shoe deal with adidas, uh, for run dmc. And it really kind of ushered in the era of a lot of the things that jay z, diddy and dr dre would later do and now have been also a lot outside of hip hop. Uh, so there’s, there’s no discounting is contribution, um, as much as one can, you know, now question his character. He was certainly, you know, one of the founding fathers is not defending father that business ended up.
You have interviewed some of the, some of the most prolific names. I mean, your book three kings is about three of these guys. I mean, jay z, dr dre, you know, diddy, I mean, but you’ve interviewed a lot of these folks, these, these, these celebrity hip hop artists and actually talked to them up close and personal. Can you share with us maybe some of the highlights or, or some of the favorite characters that you’ve actually interviewed or, or spin a little bit of time with some of the hip hop artists that you’ve enjoyed meeting the most?
Let’s see. I meAn, I think my favorites is ludIcrous. You kind of get a certain idea of him from the songs and then you’d get a different idea of him from, from the meeting him in real life and you know, we were, he has these, these kind of very outrageous songs and I’m like very over the top and uh, but then you meet in real life and he’s talking to you about how he wants to create a storytelling, uh, for, for young women and you know, he lost his daughter and you know, he’s got all these different business ventures. You know, at the time, I think he was working on a cognac line. Um, you know, you had a whole bunch of different things in the works and, and I said to him like, you know, how do you reconcile these two different sides of yourself?
And he said, well, you know, it’s like you have a friend at work maybe who during the week that come in, they’re all buttoned up and then on the weekends they’re like, well, that’s, that’s who I am on the weekdays. I’m, I’m kris bridges. And I worked really hard and I’m a businessman and then on the weekends I’m chris and um, you know, the way that he’s able to move in and out of that character I thought was pretty fascinating. uh, not everybody is able to do that the same way and you meet some people, you know, they’re not at all like that character and you meet other people in there, that character all the time. I think snoop dogg is one who comes to mind and you know, he goes in with his joint and freestyling and everything is that, you know, these dr seuss fives and, and, uh, it’s pretty impressive, honestly.
I mean, I asked him to come up with a, with the forbes freestyle, I kind of challenged him to come up with the freestyle and relating to forbes off the top of his head and, you know, within five seconds he started and, and you’re just going for like a minute, you know, like, so when you make your list at the top of the year, let me make things real simple and clear. I’m number one, not two, not three, not four, and dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, snoop, you know, and he just kept going and kept going.
Possibly written it beforehand because I just asked him the question on the spot. So, you know, I thought that that was impressive in a different way. Uh, and um, you know, and then you kind of contrast some of some of that here, meeting the guys that hip hop with billionaires in the broader industry and in other musicians in the, in the, uh, you know, throughout the industry that I’ve been fortunate enough to meet. And um, yeah, I mean at the end of the day, they’re all, they’re all people, right? I mean, and that’s kind of the unifying thing, it’s the way that I find it’s best to relate to them, just treat them like people you treat celebrities are people too and I think that they don’t, um, they don’t get a lot of time being treated like human beings because that makes any sense. So just kinda shooting, shooting the shit with them and, and you know, as, how’s your kid, how’s your wife? And they really appreciate that.
So you, you know, all these artists, you do a lot of research in the space of hip hop for, for forbes and you also write about a lot of other topics, but you are the king of the hip hop mogul knowledge for forbes. So when you decided to write this book, three kings or any book that you’re doing, what’s your process for shutting everything down and writing the book? I mean, do you disappear for a week or two? Do you, what’s your process?
Unfortunately, I can’t totally disappeared, you know, um, they’re the demands of the day job. So I can’t really go away for six months and just write the way I tried to do it, I guess is, uh, you know, I, I don’t really take book leave. I do work a lot on the nights and weekends. Um, and forbes does have a fairly liberal vacation policy, uh, you know, so that’s really helpful. We always get the week off between christmas and new years and after you’ve been there for long enough, you get the four week, four additional weeks. So, you know, now that I’m a 10 year vet there, it does afford me a little bit of time to go, uh, to go off and have time to read my book. So yeah, I mean I would say I try to, you know, I’ll take the long weekend here or maybe I’ll do a, you know, a week there and I try to do my writing and spurts. Um, and, and, you know, somehow at the end of the day it’s a, it all gets done. Um, even though sometimes it’s rather anxiety provoking as to how and when that’ll happen. And you know, just I looked down and there’s my 70,000 words, so
it keeps, it
keeps happening. Hey zack, dr z here, when you’re researching these guys, is there anything off limits to you? I mean, do you, do you draw the line somewhere to have you heard? Did you uncover some stuff? Did you said ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, not true. backup to backup. I’m not gonna. I’m not gonna publish that. I’m not going to talk about that. I mean, where do you, where do you draw the line?
Well, you know, I think mainly, and this might sound cliche, but, uh, you know, is it true? I mean, that’s kind of the most important part. And you know, I don’t like the traffic and rumors. Um, so, you know, I mean if, uh, you know, there’ve been a lot of rumors and you know, uh, that I’ve, that had been very intriguing that I haven’t been able to really confirm. so I don’t publish those, you know, I, I do write more about the business side of things. So, you know, if I come across somebody and somebody’s personal life, um, that’s not really relevant. I mean, I don’t always do it, but, you know, obviously somebody like Russell Simmons, you know, if you find out, uh, you know, that kind of thing. I think there’s also a duty to, you know, to do the right thing and um, you know, I, I haven’t come across that kind of thing before and in my writing, if I did, I would write about it, you know, but,
you know, I think you’re going to verify you’re going to write about it.
Exactly. Yeah, exactly. If I could verify I’m going to read about it. And you know, on the business side, of course there are a lot of deals that people don’t want you to know about deals that happened. It didn’t happen. Um, you know, things that are sort of not a thing that happened in a way that’s different from the way that they’re commonly understood to have happen. And um, you know, so I, I try to tell those stories when I can. And I think those have been some of the best parts of, um, of empire state of mind is, well, jackson would be king, you know, some of those stories that, that hadn’t been told before. And then sometImes you get ones that are only kind of like partially confirmed and somebody’s not exactly sure how it happened. No, that seems like it was a lot different than something.
So, you know, and a lot of times these threads go back many decades and a lot of people have a lot of different agendas. Right. And I mean, I remember with the Michael Jackson book talking about how the jacksons left the original label steeltown records in gary, Indiana to go to motown. You know, I got that story from three different, you know, octogenarian men who had very different ideas about what happened or what should have happened or how they want to be remembered. And those being barry gordy, that motown, of course, joe delayed Joe Jackson, michael dad and um, and the guy who ran steel town records. And of course, right. Everybody has a different agenda. And, uh, you know, so in that case, what I did is I Just said what he should, I’m said, and I said, here’s what probably happened. Here’s what joe said. He was with various says, here’s your, here’s what I think, gordon. Keith wasn’t names that, um, and you know, and you kind of at some point this happened that half a century ago, you got to just, you know, you got to leave it to the reader and, and put it all out there. As long as it doesn’t seem like something that’s patently false.
I’ve got a great idea for your next book and I know you probably haven’t heard many of our radio shows or podcasts, but the clay clark has been riding intros and wrapping intros for our show that are just phenomenal. And so I’m, I’m thinking he’s probably going to be the next great rapper. In fact, I hope he doesn’t get signed and leaves a radio show and then shepherd. I’m going to do it by themselves. And here we are. We don’t have the research and the work that he’s doing. So you might think about that. The fourth king little research at clark.
Oh man. Oh there we go. Make the fifth, the 14th or the 27th, 47. Future king. He couldn’t be a king someday. I be working on the fif. zach, in your books. I just love the detail you go into. And in the book you wrote, empire state of mind. You talked about how jay z was able to turn $60 bottles of antique gold into $300 bottles of ace of spades. Just poof. Using hip hop magic. How did it happen, my friend? Because that’s some serious investigative journalism, I believe you had to travel to France to really get to the bottom of the story. Can you explain the story arc
and then the whole sweater unraveling.
That’s what we have to do. Uh, so when I had started writing this book, the background they will is that the guy who ran the company that made cristal champagne made this comment to the economist magazine and he said, he said something. He saId, what do you think of all these rappers drinking champagne? And he, he basically said, we can’t control who drinks are champagne, like we don’t want these people drinking champagne and we, you know, but what can we do? Um, which jay z I think rightly took a fence too. And so he said, um, I’m going to boycott cristal champagne, will not save it in my club, my establishment old rap about it anymore. AnD you know, jay z and hip hop. And so a lot of people kind of followed his lead. And so he steereD a everyone toward dom perignon and crude briefly. But in his mind, I think he had something else planned because lo and behold, within a matter of months, suddenly he’s rapping about this mysterious gold, these mysterious cold bottles of each stage. What was the ace of spades? I’m entrepreneur campaign. Uh, it was a thing that debuted in the United States. I think it was fall two thousand nine thousand seven, I think it was on that boat.
So, so it, it, it comes out and it’s the $300 bottle. And, you know, here I’m reading this book, I’m thinking there is no way that, that god is just doing this out of the goodness of his heart rate, right? Just doesn’t, that’s just not who he is. Um, so, you know, I kinda, I kinda stay on it. And, and uh, I’m digging around and, and um, I was sitting with this guy named branson feed who’s a kind of a leg in the hip hop world and this isn’t a speakeasy, this little decent speakeasy to have in Ireland. And I noticed this, this gold bottle. And I said, what’s that? He said, no, that’s antique gold as a $50 bottle of champagne. It’s actUally me if I catch you at the same company that makes, um, uh, she’s the champion that jcc has been pushing.
And, and he said, you know, that was the 50 Dollar bottle of champagne that mysteriously Disappeared right before armand de brignac champagne, uh, came out. And, and so he basically thought that it was, it was the same thing. So I thought this is interesting. I’m going to try to get to the bottom of this. So I called up the cache people, they invited me to visit France and you know, check out what they are going for them. so because all the ticket flew over there and uh, they took me on this tour down, down into the basement and then the sellers, these ancient wine cellars that they used to, you know, the french used to use to hide people during the second world war, during the hearings and so forth and amazing stuff. And um, and when I was down there, I noticed that there were these gold bottles, but they were unmarked and it was like they could have, you know, you can slap one label on him and make an antique gold and silver for 60 bucks or you could slap another on them and call them armand de brignac and sustains until up to 300.
And, um, and so, you know, I, I, I kind of kept at it and, and poked around. And when I got back to New York, I looked up the timeline of how it happened. And in fact, armando bring ya had made his debut in the fall. Um, but it, it appeared in z’s video in the summer and to them, okay, well, you know, how did, how did that, you know, how did jay z come across as, oh, well, he found it in a modern pop shop and blah, blah, blah, and, you know, just promoted out of the goodness of his heart because he likes it so much. And um, and I said, well then how did it, how did he manage to get ahold of it before it was available in stores? And then they started backtracking and oh, well, you know, blah, blah blah, uh, we did have some kind of relationship and it came out that in fact, this was a whole deconstructed thing and then he owned part of the brand and um, and that he was profiting off, which, you know, good for him.
Like why shouldn’t be, uh, and I’d rather if I’m buying $300 bottles of champagne and I’d rather give my money to jay z’s into some racist french people. Uh, so, you know, which is what the people who so happened seemed to be. Um, and I think that was sort of the attitude when, when it came out that in my book that jay z, in fact, owner of entrepreneurial, I mean some people took notice of it and then a couple of years later, jay z make this big announcement like jay z has acquired his favorite champagne brand, blah, blah blah, but, you know, when he, he had had a stake in it all along, uh, and you know, that jay z, he manages to find a way to control the narrative all the time. Um, and I tHink that’s what he did again in this case, uh, you know, but, but it certainly was, I don’t know, I mean, if I hadn’t reported on it when he is ultimately, you know, come out and made that announcement, I don’t know. I don’t think we’ll ever know. But, you know, that was, that was definitely one of the big scoops of that book. And uh, there was a fun one too.
No, I watched one of your interviews where you were explaining that apparently you and jay z had a interaction near a porta potty. That’s where the great conversations of hip hop happened. You say, let’s meet over there by the porta potty. Uh, was he excited by your book, empire state of mind?
No. No. He said, I walked down to the porta potty outside, jv, standing next to beyonce. This is made in America festival in. I’m in philly. And I said, uh, I said, oh, jay, I’m the guy who wrote the book about you and he pretended not to hear me. You kind of sauntered off. And um, and then, and then he said, um, he said he looked over his shoulder and he goes, that book was horrible. Disappeared around the corner.
So are you, are you making the fence with jay z? Are you guys, are you guys, are you starting to kind of mend that relationship there? Are you just because you do so much investigative reporting, it’s so detailed what you’re doing. I mean, again, I know He asked you about where you draw the line. My question for you on this is, is how do you get permission to do this or do you not get permission? I mean, do you get when you make a book about jay z?
No, you don’t need, you don’t need permission to be a journalist, right? Whatever you want,
you know, he’s a public figure and uh, you know, all you can do is write the truth so you know, it’s better if you can talk to them usually, but, uh, but sometimes that comes with conditions and conditions that might get in the way of, of journalistic integrity and stuff like that. And you know, his camps response when I approached them initially was a, what’s in it for us? And I said, well, you know, I’m a forbes writer and a generally positive outlook, empire state of mind. Um, and they were kind of like, well, why don’t you think about ripping up your book deal and maybe we’ll let you go straight to business book later, which, you know, I don’t know that I wanted to write this book. And also I didn’t really believe them.
I went with it and I think, yeah, I was a 20 year old kid at the time. They didn’t think I might be able to do it. Especially when they were sort of actively trying to get people to not talk to me, which is something that happened. I mean, there were people who were, um, who were definitely, you know, I got to them and then all of a sudden it’s like, oh, well, I, you know, as jay z on board with this, oh, well, like now at, you know, oh no, okay, well I can’t talk to you. So, um, you know, but, but it, it was sort of that, that um, that shoe leather reporting, you know, uh, like I described with the grandson and going to France and that kind of stuff. And if the door’s closed, you kind of go around the back and see where you can find.
And um, and that’s what I did. ANd I think that’s what happens in hip hop a lot. You know, a loT of these guys find the door is closed in terms of, you know, you want to do a, you’d be one of a record deal or you want to a clothing deal. Like jay z had a, you know, an iceberg. They didn’t want to give them a deal. And um, what did he do when he started to known? So, uh, yeah, I kind of tried to take that to take that into plant to my own life a little bit.
My understanding is that you are one of the only people who was able to get a photo of jay z for the cover of that book. And, and, and you may be, were the cause of him no longer making photos of himself available, is that correct? Am I getting that wrong? And that you are one of the last people to be able to use his photo on the cover of a book?
Yeah, I suspect that’s true. Um, you know, the way that it works with a book cover, you don’t really, um, I mean when a photographer takes shots of you, they own the shots unless it’s specified otherwise. So that could be, you know, somebody profiles you for a magazine. Um, it could be, uh, somebody does a shoot with you for a cover of an album. It could be any number of things. And yeah, if you, if you don’t specify that you own this or that this shot for this magazine, you approve or, or you know, it’s only for this issue or whatever, they can kind of go and do whatever they want with it. And so this was the photo for the cover of that book was from, I don’t even know where it was from, you know, the publisher pulled it off. It was the, it was available off of the photo services and they were able to, to obtain the rights to it. And so that’s what they did subsequently when we did it. I did a big revise of the book, like an updated version with your chapters in the whole thing a couple of years ago. And we wanted to get a more current photograph. There weren’t any because, you know, he had suddenly started doing this thing where I’ll, well, I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna Just sort of make these images available anymore. And he became much more careful with his, with his, um, uh, the, the photos that were taken of himself
of respect as a lot of respect for your time. We have three final quick questions for you. I’ve got two and Z has one here for you. A lot of our listeners, we have hundreds of thousands of folks to download this podcast. Mainly entrepreneurs, you know, people from Australia, Florida, Canada, anywhere you could possibly think of. A lot of south koreans for some reason. It Just a lot of people that download this podcast, you’re a reader. Obviously
it’s been translated in korean too, so
don’t know how many there are there. Is there like a must read book that you’d recommend? I mean if I know there’s so many books that you could recommend, but I mean, can you think of maybe your top one or two books that you’d recommend for all of our entrepreneurial and business minded readers?
My favorite book, I think from a nonfiction side of things is money ball. A part of it is I’m a big baseball fan, but you know, I think that moneyball actually isn’t really about baseball. I’m Michael Lewis is just such a great storyteller. He can, you know, even if you’re not a baseball fan, you can, you can get into it, but the book is about analytics, right? And it’s about how understanding statistics can change any business, uh, and it doesn’t really matter that this business happens to be baseball, although that’s something that was added to it for me because I’m such a big baseball fan. So, uh, you know, uh, yeah, moneyball, it’s just been such an enjoyable read. You can definitely learn lessons business wise and also writing wise and I’m hard to hard to top that.
Okay. My final question here I have for you and then something better here. Your book three kings, it’s a page turner. It’s deep. It’s well researched. That’s my opinion. Why? Why do you feel like as the writer of this book, why do you think that all of our listeners should buy a copy of your newest book? Three kings?
Oh man. Well, um, I would go back to that idea of the blueprint, right? Um, and it’s a phrase that jv throws around a lot is album the blueprint that holds three album trilogy. Um, you know, what, what these guys have done may seem inaccessible to the average person, but there are things that anyone can do in their own careers by following these guys. And, you know, I’ll take an example of something that a dad likes to say. I’m giddy when he was little, he had not one paper route but three paper routes because, you know, diddy, one is not enough if anything for diddy. He had three paper routes and, you know, he, um, the, the way that he, he kind of managed that and the way that he was able to acquire all these customers, um, he was a certain level of, um, attention to detail and customer service.
So instead of just throwing these papers willy nilly into the yard, he would go off, he’d park his bike, opened the screen door, and then put the paper in between the screen door and the front door. And people loved it. And so, you know, they would continue to, uh, to employ him. That is continued all the way through today. A loose something like ciroc vodka where he takes the, he’ll go into a bar and they’ll see this bartender, hey, why is this rock on the middle shelf? It should be on the top shelf because it’s top shelf pockets. I mean maybe not even, it may not even be vived because that’s a whole other story. But anyway, it should be on the top shelf and you know, and they go and they put it on the top shelf. So even now he nearly a billionaire, he’s still taking the time to have that level of attention to detail and you know, you want to talk about anybody. I mean anybody from a paper boy all the way up to ceo, that’s a lesson that they could apply to their own life. Um, and there’s, there’s a bunch more like that throughout the book.
Zach, I’ve got two questions for you to wrap it up on the cover of forbes magazine. Just real quick. He just wants a real quick. We’ll send a photo. Can you make that happen yet?
But we don’t really do group covers.
Oh, you know, otherwise your body in my head. Okay. But my second real question is, what are you working on now? What’s, what’s next?
Yeah, it is a book about the intersection of hollywood and silicon valley and it’s not necessarily hip hop focused, but I’m hip hop definitely plays a part in it and uh, you know, you’ll definitely see some of the three kings popping up throughout.
And that’ll be a, that’ll be out in a year or two, I think.
perfect. Thrive nation. We’re going to put a link to zach’s book on the, uh, on the, on the show notes. So you can go purchase that book. And all I ask is that every single one of you purchased that book. It’s Zack O’Malley Greenburg senior editor with forbes. Everybody just by yourself, by it. One copies that you buy. Two copies, two copies, one for the office, one for the bath. That. There you go. No. Unbelievable. Zach, thank you for being on the show.
I love it. Oh, you bet. Thank you for having me.
all right. Thrive nation. What an interview with Zack O’Malley Greenburg. Now. Now chubb pretty buddy out there who hasn’t checked out zach’s riding that can find [email protected], and Zack O’Malley Greenburg, interesting guy. It was fun talking to you, man. He’s a fun guy to talk to you and chuck, do you know why we’re able to have such great guests on the show? Why is that? Because we have so many great listeners from coast to coast through and so the place to be. It’s kind of our, uh, christmas in august, but what we want to do is there’s a lot of you who have already subscribed to the podcast and left us an objective review on itunes. So I want to make sure I’m recapping this so nobody misses out on this. If you subscribe to the thrive time show, do you have to subscribe to the thrive time show on itunes review, subscribe today to the thrive time show on itunes.
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Then we will send you a two free tickets to our next in person workshop. But chuck, how are we going to know if they actually wrote a review? You got to take a step all over that, that sound effect there first, and then let me try that again. So how would they possibly know? How could we possibly know if they left us an objective review? All you gotta do is take a screenshot of your review and email it to [email protected] And if you are, let’s say unable to subscribe, you said I don’t want to miss out on this opportunity. If you just type in thrive one five, so thrive 15 space and allergic. So thrive 15 jenks. Just type it into your google search in jabbar, thrive 15 jenks and you’ll leave us an objective review using your google account over there on, uh, on the, the map listing. You can see our 20,000 square foot facility at the beautiful river. Walk in the center of the universe. Jinx America, jinx Oklahoma. If you want, you can see our office building. That’s kind of cool. You can see the office building, you can see
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without any further ado, here we go. Three, two, one.