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Shawn Corey Carter (born December 4, 1969),[3][4] known professionally as Jay Z (and formerly Jay-Z[5][6][7]), is an American rapper and businessman. He is one of the best-selling musicians of all time, having sold more than 100 million records, while receiving 21 Grammy Awards for his music.[8][9][10] MTV ranked him the "Greatest MC of all time" in 2006.[11] Rolling Stone ranked three of his albums—Reasonable Doubt (1996), The Blueprint (2001), and The Black Album (2003)—among the 500 greatest albums of all time.[12][13][14] In 2014, Forbes estimated his net worth at nearly $520 million, making him one of the richest hip hop artists in the U.S.[15][16]

Jay Z co-owns the New York 40/40 Club sports bar, and is the co-creator of the clothing line Rocawear.[17] He is the former president of Def Jam Recordings, co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records, and the founder of the entertainment company Roc Nation. He also founded the sports agency Roc Nation Sports and is a certified NBA and MLB sports agent.[18] As an artist, he holds the record for most number one albums by a solo artist on the Billboard 200 with 13.[19][20] He has also had four number ones on the Billboard Hot 100, one ("Empire State of Mind") as lead artist. In 2009, he was ranked the tenth-most successful artist of the 2000s by Billboard as well as the fifth top solo male artist and fourth top rapper behind Eminem, Nelly, and 50 Cent.[21] He was also ranked the 88th-greatest artist of all time by Rolling Stone.[22]

Jay Z married singer-songwriter Beyoncé in 2008.[23]


Early life


Jay Z (top) with a friend (bottom) in Trenton, New Jersey, circa 1988



Shawn Carter was born in Brooklyn, New York, and was raised in Marcy Houses, a housing project in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.[3] He and his three siblings were raised by their mother, Gloria Carter after their father, Adness Reeves abandoned the family. Reeves would later meet and reconcile with Jay Z before dying from liver failure in 2003. Jay Z claims in his lyrics that in 1982, at the age of 12, he shot his older brother in the shoulder for stealing his jewelry.[24][25] Along with future rapper AZ, Carter attended Eli Whitney High School in Brooklyn until it was closed down. He then attended the nearby George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School with future rappers The Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes, followed by a stint at Trenton Central High School in Trenton, New Jersey, though he did not graduate.[26] According to his interviews and lyrics, during this period he sold crack cocaine[25] and was shot at three times.[24]

According to his mother, Carter used to wake up his siblings at night banging out drum patterns on the kitchen table. She bought him a boom box for his birthday, sparking his interest in music. He began freestyling and writing lyrics.[27]Known as "Jazzy" around the neighborhood, Carter later adopted the showbiz/stage name "Jay-Z" in homage to his mentor Jaz-O.[3] He would drop the hyphen in 2013.[5][6]

Jay Z can be briefly heard on several of Jaz-O's early recordings in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including "The Originators" and "Hawaiian Sophie".[28] Jay Z became embroiled in several battles with rapper LL Cool J in the early 1990s.[29] He first became known to a wide audience on the posse cut "Show and Prove" on the 1994 Big Daddy Kane album Daddy's Home. Jay Z has been referred to as Big Daddy Kane's hype man during this period,[30] although Kane explains that he didn't fill the traditional hype man role, and was instead "basically ma[king] cameo appearances on stage. When I would leave the stage to go change outfits, I would bring out Jay Z and Positive K and let them freestyle until I came back to the stage."[31][32] The young Jay Z appeared 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 "In My Lifetime", for which he released a music video. An unreleased music video was also produced for the B-side "I Can't Get with That."[33]

Music career

1995–97: Reasonable Doubt and In My Lifetime, Vol. 1

With no major label to give him a record deal, Jay Z sold CDs out of his car[24] and, with Damon Dash and Kareem Biggs, created Roc-A-Fella Records as an independent label in 1995. After striking a distribution deal with Priority, Jay Z released his 1996 debut album Reasonable Doubt with beats from acclaimed producers such as DJ Premier and Super DJ Clark Kent and an appearance by The Notorious B.I.G.. The album reached number 23 on the Billboard 200, and was generally favored by critics.[3] This album would later be included in Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" as No. 248 and eventually reach platinum status.[34]

After reaching a new distribution deal with Def Jam in 1997, Jay Z released his follow-up In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. 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, when 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 told the stories of his difficult upbringing.[35] 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.[34]

1998–2000: Vol. 2..., Vol. 3... and The Dynasty

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 included 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", also featuring Amil. 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.[34] The album went on to win a Grammy Award, although Jay Z boycotted the ceremony protesting DMX's failure to garner a Grammy nomination.[36]

In 1999, Jay Z dueted with Mariah Carey on "Heartbreaker", a song from her seventh album, Rainbow. In that same year, Jay Z released Vol. 3... Life and Times of S. Carter. The album proved successful and sold over 3 million copies.[34] Vol. 3's most successful single was "Big Pimpin'", featuring UGK.

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 a Jay Z album.[37] 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 sold over two million units in the U.S. alone.[34]

2001–02: Feud with Nas, The Blueprint and The Blueprint2

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 alluded disparagingly to Mobb Deep and his dispute with Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg, and Death Row Records. He later performed the song "Takeover", at Summer Jam 2001, which initially attacked Prodigy and revealed photos of Prodigy dressed like Michael Jackson.[38] A line at the end of "Takeover" referred to Nas, who criticized him on "We Will Survive".[39] Nas responded with a diss track called "Ether" and Jay Z straightaway added a verse to "Takeover" which dissed Nas and would start a feud between the two rappers. Jay Z reported on MTV that Mark Pitts had settled the feud between him and Nas.[40]

Jay Z later released his sixth studio album, The Blueprint, which received a coveted 5 mic review from hip-hop magazine The Source. Written in just two days[41] and released in the wake of September 11 attacks, the album sold more than 427,000 copies, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200[42] and reached 2x platinum status in the U.S.[34] It was lauded for its production and its balance of "mainstream" and "hardcore" rap. Eminem was the only guest rapper on the album, producing and rapping on the song "Renegade". Four tracks were produced by Kanye West and the album 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".

In October 2001, Jay Z pleaded guilty to stabbing record producer Lance Rivera at the Kit Kat Klub in New York City in 1999.[43] For this second degree felony, Jay Z was sentenced to three years probation.[44]

Jay Z's next solo album was 2002's The Blueprint2: The Gift & the Curse, a double-album. The album debuted on the Billboard 200 at number one, selling over 3 million units in the U.S. alone[34] and surpassing The Blueprint.[45] 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 "'03 Bonnie & Clyde", which featured Jay Z's future wife Beyoncé. "Guns & Roses", featuring Lenny Kravitz, and "Hovi Baby" were two successful radio singles as well. The album also contained the tracks "A Dream", featuring Faith Evans and the late The Notorious B.I.G.; and "The Bounce", featuring Kanye West. The Blueprint 2.1 featured tracks that do not appear on The Blueprint2: 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.[46]

2003–05: The Black Album, initial retirement and collaborative albums


Jay Z in 2003



After visiting the south of France,[47] Jay Z announced work on his eighth studio album The Black Album at the opening of the 40/40 Club.[48] He worked with several producers including Just Blaze, The Neptunes, Kanye West, Timbaland, Eminem, DJ Quik, 9th Wonder, The Buchanans, and Rick Rubin. Notable songs on the album included "What More Can I Say", "Dirt Off Your Shoulder", "Change Clothes", and "99 Problems". The Black Album has sold more than 3 million copies in the US.[34] Jay Z collaborated with R. Kelly and released a collaborative studio album, The Best of Both Worlds.

On November 25, 2003, Jay Z held a concert—billed as a "retirement party"—at Madison Square Garden in New York City, which would later be the focus of his film Fade to Black. 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, Beyoncé, Twista, Ghostface Killah, Foxy Brown, Pharrell Williams and R. Kelly with special appearances by Voletta Wallace and Afeni Shakur, the mothers of The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur respectively.[citation needed] 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, as well as the release and tour of Unfinished Business, the second collaborative album between Jay Z and R. Kelly.

In 2004, Jay Z collaborated with rock group Linkin Park, in which they released their collaborative remix EP Collision Course, which featured mashups of both artists' songs, as well as a concert DVD. The album's only single, "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.[34] Jay Z was the executive producer of The Rising Tied, the debut album of Fort Minor, the hip hop side project of Linkin Park rapper Mike Shinoda. He also planned to retire in 2004.[49]

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.[50] Reportedly this major industry move was prompted by disagreements between Jay Z and Dash as to what direction Roc-A-Fella could undertake.[51] The publicized split between Jay Z, Dash, and Biggs led to the former partners sending jabs at each other in interviews.[52]

2005–07: "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.[53] 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 Marí, T.I., Young Jeezy, Akon, Kanye West, Paul Wall, The LOX, and Diddy.[54]

At the conclusion of the concert, Jay Z put many arguments to rest to the surprise of hip hop fans. 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".[55]

Jay Z returned with his comeback album on November 21, 2006, titled Kingdom Come.[56] 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.[57] Jay Z worked with video director Hype Williams, and the single's video was directed by F. Gary Gray. The album features production from Just Blaze, Pharrell, Kanye West, Dr. Dre and Coldplay's Chris Martin (single entitled "Beach Chair").[58][59] The first week saw 680,000 sales of the CD, which Entertainment Weekly said was "the highest single-week total in Jay's decade long career".[60] This album has sold 2 million copies in the US.[34]

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.[61] The album is not the film's official soundtrack, although it was distributed by Def Jam.[62] 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."[63] Also notable about the "Blue Magic" music video was Jay Z flashing 500 euro notes; Harvard Business School professor Rawi Abdelal called this a "turning point in American pop culture's response to globalization." The album has sold 1 million copies in the US.[34] On January 1, 2008, Jay Z resigned as president of Def Jam.[64]

2008–11: The Blueprint 3 and Watch the Throne

In the winter of 2008 it was announced that Jay Z become the first major hip hop artist to headline Britain's 2008 Glastonbury Festival.[65][66] Tickets sold out quickly. Former headliner Noel Gallagher of Oasis condemned the festival organizers for choosing Jay Z to headline a traditionally guitar-driven festival. "I'm sorry, but Jay-Z?" Gallagher asked, swearing. "No chance. Glastonbury has a tradition of, kind of, guitar music, do you know what I mean? And even when they throw the odd curve balls in on a Sunday night—you go, 'Kylie Minogue? I don't know about that', do you know what I mean?—but I'm not having hip hop at Glastonbury, no way, no, no. It's wrong."[67] As controversy mounted, Jay Z replied, "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."[68] Jay Z opened his Glastonbury set with a tongue-in-cheek cover of Oasis's iconic song "Wonderwall",[69] and went on to deliver a performance heralded as a successful response to pre-festival criticism.[70]


Jay Z during his Glastonbury performance



He also headlined many other summer festivals in 2008, including Roskilde Festival in Denmark,[71] Hove Festival in Norway[72] and O2 Wireless Festival in London.[73] 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.[74] On May 21, 2009, Jay Z announced he would be parting ways with Def Jam, and had struck a multimillion-dollar deal to sign with Live Nation, with whom he would start his Roc Nation imprint which would serve as a record label, talent/management agency, and music publishing company[75] and also partnered up with production team Stargate to start a record label called StarRoc.[76][77] Jay Z's 11th studio album The Blueprint 3 was originally to be released on September 11, 2009,[78] but was instead released in North America on September 8, 2009, due to increasing anticipation.[79] Its international release followed on September 14.[80] It is his 11th album to reach No.1 on the Billboard 200[81] and has surpassed Elvis Presley's previous record, making him the current solo artist record holder.[19]

On October 9, 2009, Jay Z kicked off his tour for The Blueprint 3, during which he supported his new album in North America. In a Shave Magazine review of his performance at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Jake Tomlinson expressed that "It was the type of smooth performance you would expect from the hip-hop superstar." The review gave this performance 4 stars. His North American tour continued until November 22, 2009.[82] At his concert on November 8, 2009, at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion, Rihanna joined him on stage and performed "Hard" for the very first time, then performed "Run This Town" with Jay Z.[83] Among his success, Jay Z has ventured into producing Broadway shows. Along with Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith, Jay Z helped produced the play Fela!, a musical celebrating the work of the late Nigerian star Fela Kuti.[84] Jay Z said he was inspired by the power of Kuti's work and his life story, which resulted in his interest to help produce the musical.[84] Fela! is a story about an African pioneer and political activist who made his first moves on the scene during the 1970s.[84]


Jay Z performing at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April 2010.



On January 23, 2010, Jay Z released a track, "Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour)", with Rihanna, and U2's Bono and The Edge, as well as performing it at the Hope For Haiti Now telethon.[85] In June 2010, Eminem and Jay Z announced they would perform together in a pair of concerts in Detroit and New York. The event was dubbed The Home & Home Tour. The first two concerts rapidly sold out, prompting the scheduling of an additional show at each venue.[86]Jay Z was the supporting act for U2 on the Australian and New Zealand leg of their U2 360° Tour, beginning in Auckland, New Zealand in November 2010, followed by Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth in December.[87] He also appeared on stage during U2 performances of "Sunday Bloody Sunday", and in Auckland also joined the band for a performance of "Scarlet", singing some lines of his song, "History". In August 2010, it was revealed that Jay Z and Kanye West would be collaborating on a five-track EP entitled Watch the Throne. Although, it was later revealed by West that the project had become a full-length LP. Recording sessions for the album took place at various recording locations and began in November 2010. The first single released for the project was "H•A•M". The track was co-produced by Lex Luger and West himself. The track ended up being on the deluxe edition of the album. The follow-up to that was the second single "Otis", which premiered on Funkmaster Flex's Hot 97 radio show, and was later released to the iTunes Store eleven days later. The song's existence, along with several other tracks from the album, was confirmed during a listening session hosted by Jay Z.[88] The album was first released on the iTunes Store, five days prior to it being released in physical format, a strategy Jay Z later said was used to block an internet leak. It debuted at No. 1 on the iTunes Store in 23 countries. It also broke Coldplay's record for most albums sold in one week on the online retailer, selling 290,000 copies on iTunes alone. It held that record, until Lil Wayne's Tha Carter IV was released twenty-one days later, selling only 10,000 copies more. It debuted on the US Billboard 200 chart at No. 1, selling 436,000 copies in its first week. The album received generally positive reviews. Jay Z and West later gave a surprise performance of "Otis" at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards. In April 2011, Jay Z launched a blog-like, lifestyle website by the name of Life + Times. It covers everything from music, to fashion, to technology, to sports. The site is curated based on Jay Z's interests, and he himself works with a small staff to produce every single piece of content.

2012–present: Magna Carta Holy Grail and other ventures


Jay Z embraces wife Beyoncé after his performance of "Tom Ford" on The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour, 2013



Jay Z collaborated with M.I.A. on the single "XXXO", which achieved a fair level of success and went on to become remixed by several producers worldwide. In May 2012, Jay Z and Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter announced Jay Z as the curator and the headliner for the first annual "Budweiser Made in America" festival at Fairmount Park in Philadelphia on September 1 and 2, 2012. The performance was produced by Live Nation and assembled an eclectic lineup of "rock, hip hop, R&B, Latin music and dance" musicians.[89] Jay Z and Rihanna were the two main headlining acts for BBC Radio 1's 2012 Hackney Weekend music festival on June 23 to 24.[90] Jay Z opened his set with an appearance from Rihanna, they performed "Run this Town". On September 6, "Clique" was released, a single from the album "Cruel Summer", by GOOD Music. Kanye West and Big Sean starred alongside Jay Z on the track. Jay Z took the subway to his sold out show at The Barclays Center On October 6, 2012.[91] On November 12, 2012, Coldplay announced that they will be playing with Jay Z at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on December 31.[92]

On September 23, 2010, Q-Tip confirmed working on Jay Z's follow up album to The Blueprint 3, saying the album was to hit stores by spring 2011.[93] In May 2012 it was reported that Jay Z would work on new music with Roc Nation producer Jahlil Beats. Beats told XXL: "Me and Jay-Z been going back and forth. He picked a couple of my joints that he's working on. I don't even wanna say too much about Jay, but we definitely working on some stuff. I haven't even sent him a bunch of beats. I sent him my favorite stuff. He hit me right back like, 'Yo, I'ma go in on this,' or, 'I like this.'"[94] The album has been named one of the most anticipated albums of 2013 by Complex Magazine, MTV, and XXL Magazine. Production will come from Jahlil Beats, Kanye West, Rick Rubin, Swizz Beatz, Timbaland, and Pharrell Williams.[95][96] Jay Z also made an appearance on Justin Timberlake's comeback single "Suit & Tie" from his third studio album The 20/20 Experience, the song itself was produced by both Jay Z and Timberlake's mutual friend, Timbaland.[97] During the fifth game of the 2013 NBA Finals, Carter announced his twelfth studio album, Magna Carta Holy Grail. It was released July 4, 2013. Magna Carta Holy Grail debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and sold 528,000 copies in its first week, which bypassed its predicted debut in the range of 350,000 to 400,000.[98] In December 2013, it was announced that Jay Z had received nine nominations at the 2014 Grammy Awards, more than any other artist.

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