Shawn Corey Carter (born December 4, 1973), better known by his stage name, Jay-Z is an American hip hop artist and businessman. He is one of the most financially successful hip hop artists and entrepreneurs in America, having a net worth of over $150 million, shipping over 30 million copies of his albums in the United States alone and receiving several Grammy Awards for his musical work.
Jay-Z co-owns The 40/40 Club and the NBA's New Jersey Nets and is also the creator of the clothing line Rocawear. He is the former CEO of Def Jam Recordings, one of the three founders of Roc-A-Fella Records and recently, the founder of his new venture Roc Nation. He is also the current holder for the record of most number one albums by a solo artist on the Billboard 200.
Along with his financial and musical success, Jay-Z is known for being involved in the feud between him and fellow New York rapper Nas, which was eventually settled in 2005. He married singer Beyonc? Knowles on April 4, 2008.
Jay-Z (top) with a friend (left) in Trenton, New Jersey, circa 1988.
Originally from Marcy Houses housing project in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City, Jay-Z was abandoned by his father and at 12 years old, he had shot his brother in the shoulder for stealing his jewelry. Jay-Z attended Eli Whitney High School in Brooklyn, along with rapper AZ, until it was closed down. After that he attended George Westinghouse Information Technology High School in Downtown Brooklyn, which fellow rappers The Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes also attended, and Trenton Central High School in Trenton, New Jersey, but did not graduate. In his music he refers to having been involved in selling crack cocaine.
According to his mother, Gloria Carter, a young Jay-Z used to wake his siblings up at night banging out drum patterns on the kitchen table. Eventually, she bought him a boom box for his birthday, sparking his interest in music. He began freestyling, writing lyrics, and followed the music of many artists popular at the time. In his neighborhood, Carter was known as "Jazzy", a nickname that eventually developed into his stage name, "Jay-Z". The moniker is also an homage to his musical mentor, Jaz-O, as well as to the J/Z subway lines that have a stop at Marcy Avenue in Brooklyn.
Jay-Z can briefly be heard on several of Jaz-O's early recordings in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including "The Originators" and "Hawaiian Sophie". Jay-Z was also involved in and won several battles with rapper LL Cool J in the early 90's as part of a plan to get a sought-after record deal. He first became known to a wide audience by being featured on the posse cut "Show and Prove" on the 1994 Big Daddy Kane album Daddy's Home He made an appearance on a popular song by Big L, "Da Graveyard", and on Mic Geronimo's "Time to Build", which also featured early appearances by DMX, and Ja Rule in 1995. His first official rap single was called "I Can't Get With That", for which he released a music video.
1996 ? 1997: Reasonable Doubt and In My Lifetime, Vol. 1
From the beginning of his professional recording career, when no major label gave him a record deal, Jay-Z, Damon Dash, and Kareem Biggs created Roc-A-Fella Records as their own independent label. After striking a deal with Priority to distribute his material, Jay-Z released his 1996 debut album Reasonable Doubt with beats from acclaimed producers such as DJ Premier and Super DJ Clark Kent and a notable appearance by The Notorious B.I.G.. Despite reaching only number 23 on the Billboard 200, the album was well-received by critics. This album would later be included in Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" as #248 and would later reach platinum status.
After reaching a new distribution deal with Def Jam in 1997, Jay-Z released his follow-up In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. Executively produced by Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs, it sold better than his previous effort. Jay-Z later explained that the album was made during one of the worst periods of his life. He was reeling from the death of his close friend The Notorious B.I.G. The album was a personal revelation for Jay-Z as he spun the tale of his hard knock upbringing. The album's glossy production stood as a contrast to his first release, and some dedicated fans felt he had "sold out". However, the album did feature some beats from producers who had worked with him on Reasonable Doubt, namely DJ Premier and Ski. Like its predecessor, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 earned Platinum status in the United States.
1998 ? 2000: Vol. 2... Criminal charges and mainstream success
In 1998, Jay-Z released Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life which spawned the biggest hit of his career at the time, "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)". He relied more on flow and wordplay, and he continued with his penchant for mining beats from the popular producers of the day such as Swizz Beatz, an upstart in-house producer for Ruff Ryders, and Timbaland. Other producers include: DJ Premier, Erick Sermon, The 45 King, and Kid Capri. Charting hits from this album included "Can I Get A...", featuring Ja Rule and Amil, and "Nigga What, Nigga Who", which featured Amil too. Vol. 2 would eventually become Jay-Z's most commercially successful album; it was certified 5? Platinum in the United States and has to date sold over five million copies. The album went on to win a Grammy Award, although Jay-Z boycotted the ceremony protesting DMX's failure to garner a Grammy nomination.
In 1999, Jay-Z released Vol. 3... Life and Times of S. Carter, the album proved to be successful and sold over 3 million records. Vol. 3's most successful single was "Big Pimpin'", featuring UGK. Around the same time, Jay-Z was accused of stabbing record executive Lance "Un" Rivera for what Jay-Z perceived was Rivera's bootlegging of Vol. 3... Life and Times of S. Carter. The stabbing allegedly occurred at the record release party for Q-Tip's debut solo album Amplified at the Kit Kat Klub, a now defunct night club in Times Square, New York City, on December 9. Jay-Z's associates at the party were accused of causing a commotion within the club, which Jay-Z allegedly used as cover when he supposedly stabbed Rivera in the stomach with a five-inch (127 mm) blade.
Jay-Z initially denied the incident and pleaded not guilty when a grand jury returned the indictment. Jay-Z and his lawyers contended he was nowhere around Rivera during the incident and they had witnesses and videotape evidence from the club that showed Jay-Z's whereabouts during the disturbance. Nevertheless, he later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge that resulted in a sentence of three years probation. In 2000, Jay-Z released The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, which was originally intended to become a compilation album for Roc-A-Fella artists but somehow turned into another Jay-Z album. The album helped to introduce newcomer producers The Neptunes, Just Blaze, Kanye West and Bink!, which have all gone on to achieve notable success. This is also the first album where Jay-Z utilizes a more soulful sound than his previous albums. The Dynasty: Roc La Familia sold over two million units in the U.S. alone.
2001 ? 2002: Feud with Nas, The Blueprint and The Blueprint?
In 2001, Jay-Z spoke out against Prodigy after he took an issue with a Jay-Z line from "Money, Cash, Hoes" that he felt were subliminal shots at Mobb Deep and referenced Mobb Deep's beef with Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg, and Death Row Records. He later performed a song "Takeover," at Summer Jam 2001, which initially attacked Prodigy and revealed photos of Prodigy dressed like Michael Jackson A line at the end of "Takeover" referenced Nas, who criticized him on "We Will Survive". Nas responded with a diss track called "Stillmatic" and almost instantly, Jay-Z added a verse to "Takeover" which dissed Nas and would start a feud between the two rappers. Jay-Z later released his sixth studio album The Blueprint which was later considered by many to be one of hip hop's "classic" albums, receiving the coveted 5 mic review from The Source magazine. Released during the wake of September 11 attacks, the album managed to debut at number one on the Billboard 200, selling more than 427,000 units; the album's success was overshadowed by the tragic event. The Blueprint has been certified 3x Platinum in the United States. The Blueprint was applauded for its production and the balance of "mainstream" and "hardcore" rap, receiving recognition from both audiences. The Blueprint was written in only two days. Eminem was the only guest rapper on the album, producing and rapping on the song "Renegade". Four of the thirteen tracks on the album were produced by Kanye West and represents one of West's first major breaks in the industry.The Blueprint includes the popular songs "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)", "Girls, Girls, Girls, Jigga That Nigga and Song Cry.
Jay-Z's next solo album was 2002's 3 million (U.S. only) selling The Blueprint?: The Gift & the Curse, a double-album. The album debuted on the Billboard 200 at number one, selling over 545,000 units and surpassing The Blueprint. It was later reissued in a single-disc version, The Blueprint 2.1, which retained half of the tracks from the original. The album spawned two massive hit singles, "Excuse Me Miss" and "Bonnie & Clyde" featuring Jay-Z's girlfriend of four years Beyonc? Knowles. "Guns & Roses", a track featuring rock musician Lenny Kravitz, and "Hovi Baby" were two successful radio singles as well. The album features the tracks "A Dream", featuring Faith Evans and a recording of the late The Notorious B.I.G.; and "The Bounce", featuring Kanye West. The Blueprint 2.1 features tracks that do not appear on The Blueprint?: The Gift & the Curse, such as "Stop", "La La La (Excuse Me Again)", "What They Gonna Do, Part II" and "Beware" produced by and featuring Panjabi MC.
2003 ? 2005: The Black Album, retirement and Collision Course
Jay-Z toured with 50 Cent, Busta Rhymes and Sean Paul while finishing work on what was announced as his final album, The Black Album. He worked with several producers including Just Blaze, The Neptunes, Kanye West, Timbaland, Eminem, DJ Quik, 9th Wonder and Rick Rubin. Notable songs on the album included "What More Can I Say", "Dirt Off Your Shoulder", "Change Clothes", and "99 Problems". A few of the songs done on this album portray a more personal side of Jay-Z; for example, "Moment of Clarity" sheds light on his feelings towards his estranged father and coping with his death and deals with accusations that he sold out to reach a wider audience. "What More Can I Say" addresses the "biting" accusations leveled against him by Nas in "Ether" and other detractors. The Black Album has sold 3 million copies in the US.
On November 25, 2003, Jay-Z held a concert at Madison Square Garden, which would later be the focus of his film Fade to Black. This concert was his "retirement party". All proceeds went to charity. Other performers included collaborators like The Roots (in the form of his backing band), Missy Elliott, Memphis Bleek, Beanie Siegel, Freeway, Mary J. Blige, Beyonc?, Twista, Ghostface Killah, Foxy Brown, Pharrell and R. Kelly with special appearances by Voletta Wallace and Afeni Shakur, the mothers of The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur respectively. While Jay-Z had attested to a retirement from making new studio albums, various side projects and appearances soon followed. Included in these were a greatest hits record, mash-up projects and concert appearances with R. Kelly and Linkin Park.
In 2004 Jay-Z collaborated with rock group Linkin Park. The project was named Collision Course, and contained a six track EP, as well as a making of DVD. Some of the mash ups tracks were entitled "Dirt Off Your Shoulder/Lying From You", "Jigga What/Faint", and "Numb/Encore". "Numb/Encore" went on to win a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, and was performed with Linkin Park live at the Grammys, with a special appearance by Paul McCartney, who added verses from the song Yesterday. The EP sold over 1 million copies in the US alone. Jay-Z was the executive producer of Fort Minor's debut album The Rising Tied. Mike Shinoda got together with Jay-Z and Linkin Park bandmate Brad Delson to discuss what tracks should make the album.
Later in 2004, Jay-Z was named president of Def Jam Records, which led to Jay-Z, Dash and Biggs selling their remaining interests in Roc-A-Fella Records and Jay-Z taking control of both of the companies. Reportedly this major industry move was prompted by disagreements between Jay-Z and Dash as to what direction Roc-A-Fella could undertake. The publicized split between Jay-Z, Dash and Biggs led to the former partners sending jabs at each other in interviews. Dame Dash has made comments that after the break up he was portrayed as "Osama bin Laden" to ensure that rappers would stay with Jay-Z and not sign with him.
2005 ? 2007: "I Declare War", Kingdom Come and American Gangster
Jay-Z at a concert in 2006.
On October 27, 2005, Jay-Z headlined New York's Power 105.1 annual concert, Powerhouse. The concert was entitled the "I Declare War" concert leading to intense speculation in the weeks preceding the event on whom exactly Jay-Z would declare war. As he had previously "declared war" on other artists taking lyrical shots at him at other events, many believed that the Powerhouse show would represent an all-out assault by Jay-Z upon his rivals. The theme of the concert was Jay-Z's position as President and CEO of Def Jam, complete with an on-stage mock-up of the Oval Office. Many artists made appearances such as the old roster of Roc-A-Fella records artists, as well as Ne-Yo, Teairra Mari, T.I., Young Jeezy, Akon, Kanye West, Paul Wall, The LOX, and Diddy.
At the conclusion of the concert, Jay-Z put many arguments to rest to the surprise of hip hop fans. Instead of declaring war, he declared that he was the "United Nations of this rap shit". The most significant development in this show was closure to the infamous hip hop rivalry between Jay-Z and Nas. The two former rivals shook hands and shared the stage together to perform Jay-Z's "Dead Presidents" blended with Nas's song "The World is Yours" from which "Dead Presidents" had sampled the vocals on the chorus.
Jay-Z returned with his comeback album on November 21, 2006 titled Kingdom Come. Jay-Z's comeback single, "Show Me What You Got", was leaked on the Internet in early October 2006, scheduled to be released later on that month, received heavy air-play after its leak, causing the FBI to step in and investigate. Jay-Z worked with video director Hype Williams, and the single's video was directed by F. Gary Gray (Friday, The Italian Job). The album features producers such as Just Blaze, Pharrell, Kanye West, Dr. Dre and Coldplay's Chris Martin (single entitled "Beach Chair"). The first week saw 680,000 sales of the CD, which Entertainment Weekly said was "the highest single-week total in Jay's decadelong career". This album has sold 2 million copies in the U.S. alone.
Jay-Z released his tenth album entitled American Gangster on November 6, 2007. After viewing the Ridley Scott film of the same name, he was heavily inspired to create a new "concept" album that depicts his experiences as a street-hustler. The album is not the film's official soundtrack, although it was distributed by Def Jam. Jay-Z's American Gangster depicts his life in correlation to the movie American Gangster. At the start of the album's first single, "Blue Magic", Jay-Z offers a dealer's manifesto while making references to political figures of the late 1980s with the lyric: "Blame Reagan for making me to into a monster, blame Oliver North and Iran-Contra, I ran contraband that they sponsored, before this rhymin' stuff we was in concert." Also notable about the "Blue Magic" music video was Jay-Z flashing 500 euro notes, in what Harvard Business School professor Rawi Abdelal has called a "turning point in American pop culture's response to globalization." The album has sold 1 million copies in the US. On December 24, 2007, Jay-Z stated that he will not remain at Def Jam as the company's President, and vacated the position effective of January 1, 2008.
2008 ? present: Glastonbury, New Record Deal and The Blueprint 3
Jay-Z during his Glastonbury performance
It was controversially announced on February 2, 2008 that Jay-Z would headline the Glastonbury Festival in 2008, becoming the first major hip hop artist to headline the British festival. Tickets failed to sell out with 100,000 being sold - out of a possible 137,500 and as the festival sold out in 2 hours the previous year critics blamed the choice of a hip hop artist as opposed to a rock band as the main problem, although a more likely cause is the preceding run of terrible weather and flooding that in 2007 made life at the festival very difficult. One of the more outspoken critics of his selection was Noel Gallagher of Oasis fame, who criticised the organizers of the festival for scheduling Jay-Z as a headliner for the traditionally guitar-driven, stating "I'm sorry, but Jay-Z? No chance. Glastonbury has a tradition of guitar music and even when they throw the odd curve ball in on a Sunday night you go 'Kylie Minogue?' I don't know about it. But I'm not having hip hop at Glastonbury. It's wrong."
Controversy ensued in the months leading up to the event with artists, promoters and fans weighing in both for and against. Jay-Z responded to this saying, "We don't play guitars, Noel, but hip hop has put in its work like any other form of music. This headline show is just a natural progression. Rap music is still evolving. We have to respect each other's genre of music and move forward." In response to Gallagher's criticism, Jay-Z opened his Glastonbury set with a tongue-in-cheek cover of Oasis's iconic song "Wonderwall". His Glastonbury performance was heralded as a successful response to pre-festival criticism.
When Gallagher was asked about the incident he replied "Someone asked me about the fact that Glastonbury hadn't sold out for the first time in years, and if it was because of Jay-Z. From there it grew into this crap that I was standing on an orange crate at Speakers' Corner saying, 'Gather round, brothers and sisters. Have you heard what's happening at Glastonbury this year?' I've hung out with Jay-Z in Tokyo. It's not my bag, but it's all right." When Jay-Z was asked about Gallagher's comments he said "I heard he was reaching out. I don't bear any grudge, it's all good. I just don't believe in good music and bad music, I've always said that." and said that he would be interested in collaborating with Oasis in the future.
He also headlined many other summer festivals in 2008, including Roskilde Festival in Denmark, Hove Festival in Norway and O2 Wireless Festival in London. Jay-Z also stated that after he finishing touring he will work on a new album. Timbaland has previously stated that he will be producing the entire album. Recently, however, Jay-Z went on record to say that it is not guaranteed to be a full Timbaland production. During Kanye West's August 6, 2008 concert at Madison Square Garden, Jay-Z came out to perform a new song and he and Kanye proclaimed that it was to be on The Blueprint 3. On May 21, 2009, Jay-Z announced he would be parting ways with Def Jam, and had stuck a multi-million dollar deal to sign for Live Nation, which he would start his Roc Nation imprint which would serve as a record label, talent/management agency, and music publishing company and also partnered up with production team Stargate to start a record label called StarRoc. Jay-Z's 11th studio album The Blueprint 3 was originally to be released on September 11, 2009 but was instead released on September 8, 2009 due to increasing anticipation. It is his 11th album to reach #1 on the Billboard 200 and has surpassed Elvis Presley's previous record, making him the current record holder.
Jay-Z has also established himself as an entrepreneur like his fellow hip hop moguls, and friends, Russell Simmons, Dr. Dre and Sean "Diddy" Combs, who also have business holdings such as record companies and clothing lines. In an interview, he stated that "my brands are an extension of me. They're close to me. It's not like running GM, where there's no emotional attachment."
He is the founder of the urban clothing brand Rocawear along with Damon Dash. Rocawear has clothing lines and accessories for men, women and children. The line was taken over by Jay-Z in early 2006 following a falling out with co-founder Damon Dash. In March 2007, Jay-Z sold the rights to the Rocawear brand to Iconix Brand Group, for $204 million. Jay-Z will retain his stake in the company and will continue to oversee the marketing, licensing and product development.He also co-owns The 40/40 Club, an upscale sports bar that started in New York City and has since expanded to Atlantic City and Chicago. In 2008, the 40/40 club in Las Vegas was closed down and bought back by the hotel after attendance steadily declined, future plans will see 40/40 Clubs in Tokyo, and Singapore.
Jay-Z serves as co-brand director for Budweiser Select and collaborates with the company on strategic marketing programs and creative ad development. He provides direction on brand programs and ads that appear on TV, radio, print, and high-profile events. He is a part-owner of the New Jersey Nets NBA team paying a reported $4.5 million for his share. He is interested in relocating the team to Brooklyn. In October 2005, he was reported in English media as considering buying a stake of Arsenal F.C., an English soccer team. He has also invested in a real estate development venture called J Hotels which recently acquired a $66 million mid-block parcel in Chelsea, New York. Jay-Z and his partners are contemplating constructing a high-end hotel or an art gallery building on the newly acquired site which has the potential to go up about twelve stories.
Relationship with Beyonc?
Jay-Z's most public relationship has been with American R&B singer Beyonc? Knowles, a former member of Destiny's Child. In 2002, Jay-Z & Beyonce collaborated for the song "Bonnie & Clyde". Jay-Z also appeared on Knowles' hit single "Crazy In Love" and as well as "That's How You Like It" from her debut Dangerously in Love. On her second album, B'Day, he made appearances on the 2006 hits, "D?j? Vu" and "Upgrade U". In the video for the latter song, she comically imitates his appearance.
The couple generally avoid discussing their relationship. Beyonc? has stated that she believes that not publicly discussing their relationship has helped them. Jay-Z said in a People article, "We don't play with our relationship. " They keep a low public profile despite being photographed at New Jersey Nets home games and while on vacation in Cannes in 2007. The pair were listed as a power couple on Time Magazine's 100's Most Influential People of 2006.
On April 4, 2008, it was reported by People that Knowles and Jay-Z had been married at a private ceremony in New York City. It became a matter of public record on April 22, 2008, but Knowles did not publicly debut her $5 million Lorraine Schwartz-designed wedding ring until the Fashion Rocks concert on September 5, 2008 in New York City.
Jay-Z attends President Barack Obama's staff party during the January 2009 inaugural festivities.
During his retirement, Jay-Z also became involved in philanthropic activity. On August 9, 2006, he met with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan at the organization's headquarters in New York. The rapper pledged to use his upcoming world tour to raise awareness of?and combat?global water shortage. Already on the look-out for a way to, in his own words, "become helpful", he had been made aware of this issue during a visit to Africa. The effort took place in partnership with the UN, as well as MTV, which produced a documentary entitled Diary of Jay-Z: Water for Life, first airing in November 2006.
Along with Sean "Diddy" Combs, Jay-Z pledged USD 1 million to the American Red Cross' relief effort after Hurricane Katrina. Jay-Z stated his support for Kanye West after the latter's outburst against President Bush during a live Katrina charity telethon. He also addressed the issue of the Katrina disaster, and the government's response, in his song "Minority Report".