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Jay-Z is a billionaire who wants things billionaires want—like a license to build a casino.


  • Rapper


  • Businessman

Eric Adams’s relationship with hip-hop highlights the genre’s generational divide: New York’s younger, less-established rappers have a connection to City Hall that’s strained at best. Adams has blamed drill music in particular as the reason behind the deaths of two New York rappers, and urged platforms to remove drill music videos. Younger rappers would likely never want to be seen as affiliated with a mayor who once worked for the NYPD (who have been the primary antagonists of hip-hop as a genre for most of its existence). They maintain the genre’s historical wariness of authority, and particularly of law enforcement. 

But rappers of Adams’s generation, like Jay-Z or Diddy, see themselves more as moguls than artists. Those who have made it may have once hated cops just as much as their younger counterparts, but many have sanded their musician edges and rebranded as barons of liquor, NFTs, and podcasts. They now see “the system” less like a power that must be fought and more like the last walled garden that they must infiltrate and enmesh themselves within. That attitude might be relatable to Adams, who began his career in the NYPD seeing himself as an activist infiltrator, only to entrench himself within the establishment. 

So, when Jay-Z accepted an award from Adams in September 2023 at the Brooklyn Public Library, the handshake between the two men was a culmination of their parallel transformations  from agitators to insiders. That may have satisfied Adams—who frequently uses “Empire State of Mind” as walkout music—but what exactly does Jay-Z get from all this? When Hell Gate reached out to the Mayor’s Office, they told us “the award was to acknowledge the philanthropic and cultural commitments from both [Jay-Z] and his mother Gloria Carter.” It’s true that Jay-Z had agreed to donate over $1 million to the library, right after his company Roc Nation turned BPL into a shrine to his life and career for the better part of the summer—strangely, without his knowledge, according to his employees at Roc Nation.

If Jay-Z wasn’t crazy about getting all this attention in the first place, why show up and hobnob with Adams and other local politicians? Other members of his aging cohort of mogul rappers from the ’80s, ’90s and ’00s, like Harlem’s Jim Jones and the Bronx’s KRS One, have lent their faces and names to the Adams administration in an effort to promote their own new albums or projects (with many of their own demographic now making up Adams’s voting base.) Jay-Z doesn’t need the money like the other rappers: he’s got money in successful champagne and cognac brands, a streaming service, the NFL, and of course, real estate.

If anything, the BPL ceremony was a grace note; the real symbol of Jay-Z’s status as New York City powerbroker sits not even a mile up Flatbush Avenue, where houses were bulldozed to make way for Barclays Center, which he helped build with a real estate developer who is married to the CEO of the library that was honoring him. (Not to mention that Adams is the very same guy who would be cutting library budgets just a few months after that award ceremony). 

Jay-Z didn’t even support Adams in the primary, preferring his rival, Ray McGuire, a CitiBank executive who thought the median cost of a home in Brooklyn was $80,000 to $90,000 (it’s actually $900,000).

Last December, Roc Nation announced that they were partnering with the real estate giant SL Green to try and build a Caesars Palace casino in Times Square. Downstate casinos are projected to bring in billions of dollars a year. That’s a lot of money, and if there’s one thing we know, it’s that Jay-Z loves money—it’s not even his first time trying to bring gaming to New York City

While the mayor doesn’t control the state’s casino bidding process, realistically, one isn’t going to get built without his support. So, what did Jay-Z and Eric Adams talk about at the BPL gala? The fate of Flaco? How the mayor’s son, Jordan Coleman, fared as a Roc Nation creative coordinator?

Roc Nation didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

Will New Yorkers ultimately benefit from these two powerful Brooklynites congratulating each other on the steps of the main branch of their public library? Probably not, but it’s important for Jay-Z and Adams that New Yorkers think they will. 

Last updated: 12/18/2023


Roc Nation used to employ

Jordan Coleman

Eric Adams's literal son.

Partnered in a Times Square casino bid with

Marc Holliday

When you want to build a casino in Times Square, you hire the mayor's former chief of staff and host parties with Cara Delevingne.

That casino bid is getting help from

Frank Carone

New York City's short king is the most connected man in town.

Jordan Coleman

Eric Adams's literal son.

Marc Holliday

When you want to build a casino in Times Square, you hire the mayor's former chief of staff and host parties with Cara Delevingne.

Frank Carone

New York City's short king is the most connected man in town.

Jacqui Williams

"Real estate is not to be toyed with here."

Sylvia Cowan

Former girlfriend with whom he still owns an apartment.

Tracey Collins

Adams's longtime girlfriend, who lives in Fort Lee, New Jersey, is rarely seen in his presence, and got a cushy promotion and a big raise after he became mayor.

Jenifer Rajkumar

Adams has called her a "beast." She thinks he's “the GOAT." 

Bishop Lamor Whitehead

The "Bling Bishop" and Eric Adams apparently don't speak anymore, but both say that God is on their side.

Eleonora Srugo

This high-powered real estate agent can be found at Casa Cipriani or Gracie Mansion.

Robert and Zhan Petrosyants

Fun-loving twins who play host to the mayor at their trendy Italian eatery.

Billy Bildstein

The owner of Avant Gardner and Brooklyn Mirage fought the SLA and won (with help from powerful friends).

Scott Sartiano

How did the owner of Zero Bond score a seat on the Met's board? Probably not based on his resume, which we got our hands on.

Steve Cohen

Steve Cohen wants two things—a Mets championship and a casino. Eric Adams can only really help him with one of those.

Tony Argento

New York City's homegrown film studio mogul is a Gotham power broker out of central casting.

Michael Mazzio

Michael Mazzio found himself getting shut out of the lucrative tow truck industry—until he found a friendly ear in City Hall.

Rich Maroko

The head of the Hotel and Gaming Trades Council bet big on Eric Adams becoming mayor. Will it pay off?

Brock Pierce

Crypto-enthusiast who says he's advising Adams on "all things crypto."

Victoria Schneps-Yunis

Queens newspaper magnate whose own rise mirrors that of Adams.

Douglas Durst

Real estate titan who wants to weaken New York City's climate laws.

John Chell

Shot a man to death in 2008, now in charge of the largest bureau in the NYPD.

Vito Pitta

The grandson of a hotel union boss whose family law firm is heading Adams's legal defense fund.

Rana Abbasova

Abbasova's job is to keep City Hall friendly with foreign governments. And maybe...they all became a little too friendly.

Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn

Bichotte Hermelyn is helping to stifle progressives at every turn, just how Eric Adams likes it. 

Brendan McGuire

When it comes to fending off a public corruption case, it doesn’t hurt to have a lawyer who has friends in the Southern District.

Evan Thies

A political consultant and one of the main architects of Adams's mayoral election, whom Adams described as "the man that captured my voice" and "my brother."

Max Young

Adams's comms director left the administration to work for Pfizer, but will he come back to help his old boss win reelection in 2025?

Brianna Suggs

Eric Adams hired her when she was 19. Six and a half years and millions of dollars in mayoral campaign fundraising later, the FBI raided her apartment.

Peter Koo

Senior advisor to the Deputy Mayor of Public Safety. What does that even mean, man?

Rachel Atcheson

A nice vegan caught up in a nasty campaign finance scandal.

Timothy Pearson

Timothy Pearson is Mayor Adams’s right-hand man—a hand that, at least once, curled into a fist.

Sheena Wright

The nonprofit professional (with a somewhat checkered past) is quickly rising through the ranks at City Hall.

David Banks

One of the Banks brothers, now finds himself at the top of a teetering schools system. 

Denise Felipe-Adams

An enthusiastic Adams loyalist dipping her toes into crypto.

Louis Molina

As Correction commissioner, he stymied jail oversight and presided over dozens of deaths of people in custody.

Ydanis Rodriguez

A ride-or-die Eric Adams campaign surrogate scored a powerful post overseeing NYC's streets, but so far that has meant taking a back seat to the mayor's bureaucrats.

Tiffany Raspberry

A lobbyist and long-time friend now has a lot of power in City Hall—and she's not afraid to use it.

Eric Ulrich

Gambling, tow trucks, pizza: the Manhattan DA's indictment against Adams's former building commissioner has it all.

Ingrid Lewis-Martin

Already a legendary and uniquely powerful force within the Adams administration, the mayor's most fiercely loyal deputy stares down a federal investigation into her boss' campaign.

Fabien Levy

Levy has risen in influence as his colleagues in the City Hall press shop have departed, and the deputy mayor runs interference for the mayor in his dealings with the press.

Bernard Adams

Younger brother Bernard Adams couldn't make it past the City's ethics board—but his wife, Sharon, sure did.

Dwayne Montgomery

An old friend the mayor doesn't care to claim, indicted in a straw donor scheme.

Kaz Daughtry

Jeffrey Maddrey's hands-on protégé, now NYPD drone champion.

Edward Caban

The Adams administration's second police commissioner is a team player and a Masonic brother.

Lisa White

Eric Adams's former roommate (or is it landlord?) in charge of NYPD officer morale—too bad she tanks it.

Jeffrey Maddrey

The top uniformed cop in the NYPD, despite a wild history of disciplinary charges.

Philip Banks III

From unindicted co-conspirator in a federal corruption case to Mayor Adams's deputy mayor for public safety in less than a decade.

Winnie Greco

Winnie Greco connected the Chinese business community to the future mayor. In return, he promised to build an arch.