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Shawn Corey Carter, known commonly as Jay-Z (a.k.a. Jigga, Jay-Hova (a play on Jehovah and later shortened to Hova, or Young Hov), born on December 4, 1969 in Brooklyn, New York, is a rap/hip hop performer and record label executive. He was one of the most popular and successful rappers of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Besides pursuing his own career, Jay-Z was one of the founders of Roc-a-Fella Records, a successful hip-hop label which also launched the careers of Beanie Sigel, Kanye West, Memphis Bleek, Young Gunz, Freeway, and others. Known for his metaphoric lines, freestyling abilities, crafty word play, and blending of street and popular hip hop, Jay-Z became one of the most respected rappers in the music industry before announcing his retirement from recording in 2004. Jay-Z was later appointed the president and CEO of Def Jam Recordings, after Roc-a-Fella was sold to the company. As of 2005, he is estimated to be worth around $320 million [1]. He is currently dating R&B singer Beyoncé Knowles.


Early career

Originally from the Marcy Projects in the Bed-Stuy section of Brooklyn, Carter's father abandoned the family when he was twelve years old and he was consequently raised by his mother Gloria. As a young man, he claims to have been caught up in selling crack cocaine on the streets of New York. He was known as "Jazzy" in his neighborhood, a nickname he soon transformed to "Jay-Z" while in pursuit of a career in music. The name Jay-Z is also a homage to his musical partner Jaz-O (AKA The Jaz) as well as to the J-Z subway lines that go from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Jay-Z can be heard on several of The Jaz's early recordings including The Originators and Hawaiian Sophie. His career had a jump start when he battled a rapper by the name of Zai. The battle caught the eye of many record labels, as Jay-Z was able to hold his own against Zai.

He briefly attended high school in Trenton, New Jersey. He dropped out, but is still remembered there for his rhyming. It was said that his involvement in dealing drugs ended after he was shot at six times (he was not hit) in a dispute with another dealer, after which he became more serious about music as a profession. After several unsuccessful attempts to launch a career--first with Jaz-O, and then as part of a group called Original Flavor--Jay-Z co-founded Roc-a-Fella Records with partners Damon Dash and Kareem “Biggs” Burke. His debut album Reasonable Doubt was released in 1996 to considerable acclaim within the hip hop community, and included four charting singles: "Ain't No Nigga" (with Foxy Brown), "Can't Knock the Hustle" (with Mary J. Blige), "Dead Presidents" and "Feelin' It."

Commercial success

In 1997, Jay-Z's follow-up, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, peaked at #3 on the Billboard album charts, and helped establish his career and mainstream success. In spite of the success, Jay-Z's image was tarnished by what his core audience perceived as pandering to mainstream audiences with a more pop-friendly sound. So Jay-Z released The Streets Is Watching, a straight-to-video movie, that showed that Jay was still as hard as ever. The next year, Jay-Z released Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life, continuing this evolution towards a pop-oriented market. Hard Knock Life debuted at #1 on the Billboard Charts and stayed there for five weeks on its way to selling over 5 million records. It included several huge singles, including "Can I Get A..." (featuring Ja Rule and Roc-a-Fella artist Amil), "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)," "Nigga What, Nigga Who (Originators '99)" (featuring Jaz-O and Amil), "It's Alright" and "Money Ain't a Thang" (with Jermaine Dupri). Vol. 2 was what established Jay-Z as the best rapper to emerge from the post Biggie-Tupac era.

In 1999, Jay-Z released Vol. 3: Life and Times of S. Carter (debuted #1), which was another big hit in spite of continued criticism for his pop-oriented sound, and a large roster of collaborators that many felt crowded out Jay-Z himself. His next album, The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (debuted #1), was originally intended as a collaboration album with many guests from Roc-a-Fella's roster, including Beanie Sigel, Memphis Bleek and Amil, as well as Scarface, Just Blaze, R. Kelly, Kanye West, The Neptunes and Snoop Dogg.

2001's The Blueprint (debuted #1) is considered by many to be one of hip hop's classic albums. Released on September 11 2001, the album managed to debut at #1, selling more than 450,000 albums in its first week despite being upstaged by the September 11 attacks. Although it never surpassed Reasonable Doubt's status in the hip hop community, The Blueprint contained a balanced blend of soulful samples that had both street credibility and mainstream appeal, receiving recognition from both audiences. Eminem was the only guest artist on the album, appearing on the track "Renegade." The Blueprint also includes "Izzo (HOVA)," a top ten hit, and "Takeover," a song which puts on blast rivals Prodigy of Mobb Deep and Nas. The latter responded to Jay-Z with both an underground single entitled "Stillmatic" and a track, "Ether," on his 2001 LP "Stillmatic," and the pair's resulting rivalry became one of the most talked-about subjects in the hip hop community. The feud between Jay-Z and Nas escalated, with Jay-Z even challenging Nas to a one-time $1,000,000 MC battle that never took place, but the two MCs ended their rivalry peacefully in 2005.

Two side projects followed The Blueprint: a late 2001 MTV Unplugged album called Jay Z: Unplugged (debuted #6) (featuring The Roots as Jay-Z's backing band), and a collaborative album with R. Kelly, The Best of Both Worlds (debuted #1), in 2002. Jay-Z's next solo album was 2002's The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse (debuted #1), a sprawling double-album which included the Top 10 single "'03 Bonnie & Clyde," a duet with his girlfriend, Beyoncé Knowles of Destiny's Child. The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse was later reissued in a single-disc version, The Blueprint 2.1, which retained half of the tracks from the double-album.

Later years

In 2003, 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 (debuted #1). The album featured the Top 10 singles "Change Clothes" and "Dirt Off Your Shoulder," one of a number of Jay-Z singles produced by Timbaland. The Black Album featured the best producers in the game including Rick Rubin and Kanye West who has now distinguished himself as an outstanding rapper in his own right. The Black Album was an autobiographic album which took Jay-Z "from Marcy to Madison Square." The Black Album includes Jay-Z's magnum opus, Dirt Off Your Shoulder.

In 2004, an a capella special edition of The Black Album (which sported a red CD cover) was released with the intention of allowing others to create remixes. The most controversial of the ensuing remixes was by DJ Danger Mouse, entitled "The Grey Album." It combined the a capella version with instrumental samples of The Beatles' White Album. DJ Danger Mouse was sent a cease and desist order from EMI, The Beatles' record company, due to illegal sampling. As a result, many copies were destroyed and an original is now a rare find.

On November 25 2003, Jay-Z held a legendary 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 The Roots, Missy Elliott, Memphis Bleek, Beanie Siegel, Freeway, Mary J. Blige, Beyonce, Twista, Ghostface Killah, Foxy Brown, Pharrell and R.Kelly with special appearances by Voletta Wallace and Afeni Shakur, the mothers of Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur. The concert was viewed the culmination of one of the greatest rap careers of all time and was the first all rap concert that Madison Square Garden allowed in years.

Jay-Z and R. Kelly released a follow up to their Best of Both Worlds album in October 2004 entitled Unfinished Business (debuted #1), which includes 11 previously unreleased tracks by the duo. This release was timed to coincide with the Best of Both Worlds Tour, which played half of its dates before R. Kelly was booted off the tour in November 2004 after his unpredictable and unprofessional behavior. The tour was then changed to "Jay-Z and Friends" and completed its run with artists such as P.Diddy, Mary J. Blige, T.I., Busta Rhymes, and fellow members of the ROC accompanying Jay-Z.

On June 18 2004, Jay-Z appeared live with the jam band Phish at KeySpan Park in Brooklyn, performing some of his hit singles with the band while the "jam-band hippie" audience sang along - a defining moment of Jay-Z's popularity.

On November 30, 2004, Jay-Z released Collision Course, a collaboration with Linkin Park. It features remixes of songs from the rock band's two studio albums, Meteora and Hybrid Theory; and also several from the rapper's albums including his latest, The Black Album. It debuted at #1 in the US Billboard Album Charts, #12 in Australia and #38 in the UK. The lead single "Numb/Encore" debuted at #14 in the UK, and remained on the charts for nearly six months.

On January 3, 2005, Jay-Z was appointed the new President and CEO of Def Jam Recordings. Damon Dash had left Roc-a-Fella Records in late 2004 to pursue other ventures; the label will be retained as a Def Jam imprint.

On July 2, 2005, Jay-Z made an appearance at Live 8 with Linkin Park performing songs from Collision Course and the song "Public Service Announcement".

ON October 27, 2005, Jay-Z performed at New York's Power 105.1 annual concert, Powerhouse. He had previously announced that he would "declare war" on other rappers taking subliminal shots at him. Surprisingly, he ended his famous beef with Nas, bringing him on stage to do the chorus to Jay-Z's song, "Dead Presidents." Also present on stage was P. Diddy and The Lox, who had a simmering beef relating to The Lox departure from Bad Boy Records. Rappers Freeway and Beanie Sigel jumped on stage as well, along with Kanye West, Sauce Money, Paul Wall, Teairra Mari, Young Jeezy, T.I., Peedi Crack, and Memphis Bleek. The last time Jay-Z declared war, he went at Nas and Prodigy of Mobb Deep on the song "Takeover" at Hot 97's annual concert Summer Jam. Jay-Z also performed for Philadelphia radio station Power 99 on October 28, at the Wachovia Center.

In December 2005, it was reported that wrestler Diamond Dallas Page filed a lawsuit against Jay-Z for illegally adopting the "Diamond Cutter" symbol as his own. Currently there is heavy speculation that he may come out his "retirement" to record & release a new album in 2006, 10 years after his 1st album was released. However, this is only speculation as nothing has been confirmed or denied.

Business interests

Apart from being President and CEO of Def Jam Recordings, Jay-Z is also one of the owners and founders of the Roc-A-Fella empire, which includes Roc-A-Fella Records, Roc-La-Familia, Roc-A-Fella Films and Rocawear, a clothing brand established in 1999. Just recently Jay-Z bought out co-founder Damon Dash for an estimated $25 million in the Rocawear clothing line, in addition to developing his own S. Carter high-end clothing line. Roc-A-Fella also distributes "Armadale," a Scottish vodka, in the U.S. Jay-Z is a part owner of the New Jersey Nets NBA team, and is rumored to be one of the franchise owners interested in relocating the team to Brooklyn. In September 2005, he was reported in English media as considering a takeover of Arsenal F.C., an English soccer team. He also co-owns The 40/40 Club, an upscale sports bar which started in New York, NY and has since expanded to Atlantic City, NJ, with plans for locations in Miami and Atlanta. Carter also has a line of Reebok sneakers called The S.Carter Collection, which hold the record for fastest selling Reebok shoe in history and made him the first non-athlete to have a signature line of sneakers. In the spring of 2005, he introduced his collaboration with Swiss luxury-watch maker Audemars Piguet.

Jay-Z is at heart a true entrepreneur, like his fellow hip hop moguls turned friends Russell Simmons and Sean "Diddy" Combs, who also have business holdings such as record companies and clothing lines. He redirected the hip hop culture from hooded sweatshirts and baggy jeans to buttons ups and crisp jeans, and received GQ's International Man of the Year award.

While Jay-Z has found financial success through such business ventures, some of his fans feel he has drifted away from the music. In response, Jay-Z states that "Nothing is hot about a 45-year old rapper." Plus he wanted to leave at his prime stated in one of his rhymes; "Jay's status appears to be at an all-time high/Perfect time to say goodbye," yet then adds "When I come back like Jordan wearing the 45..." --"Encore," 2003

Grammy Award History

Grammy Stats

  • Career Nominations: 18
  • Career Wins: 4

Record of the Year

  • "Crazy In Love" w/ Beyonce Nominated 2004

Best Rap Solo Performance

  • "99 Problems" WON 2005
  • "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" Nominated 2002
  • "Hard Knock Life" Nominated 1999

Best Male Rap Solo Performance

  • "Song Cry" Nominated 2003

Best R&B Song

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration

Best Rap Song

Best Rap Performance By a Duo or Group

Best Rap Album


For a complete list of albums and singles, see: Jay-Z discography

Top Ten US and UK Singles

The following singles reached the Top Ten on either the US or UK pop charts:


Underground Releases & Remixes

See also

External links


  1. ^  Jay-Z was estimated to be "worth $320 million and counting" by Rolling Stone in the profile article The Book of Jay, Issue 989, 15 December 2005ar:جاي زي

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