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Jay Z Biography

Jay Z is an American rapper and businessman and one of the best selling artists of all time. Apart from a high-profile executive and founder, the multi-Grammy winner is considered one of the best MCs in the world.

Early Life

Shawn Corey Carter was born in Brooklyn, New York on December 4, 1969, one of 4 brothers. They were raised by their mother in a housing project in Brooklyn. As a teenager, he would move from school to school and sell cocaine to support himself.

Career Breakthrough

Known as Jazzy he began freestyling and writing music eventually becoming the protege of Jaz-O. He changed his stage name to Jay Z in honor of his mentor. Selling records from his car he founded the independent label Roc-A-Fella Record in 1995. After he found a distributor everything fell into place. Jay Z released his debut album Reasonable Doubt the following year. It created several charting singles with big names and although not a huge success it became a classic of Jay Z. In 1997 followed In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 which had considerably more chart success and commercial success.

The Blueprint

The next album Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life released in 1998, spawned his first major hit Can I Get A…” and “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem) and his first Grammy for Best Rap Album. The Dr.Dre and Timbaland produced LP Vol. 3: Life and Times of S. Carter spawned the big hit Big Pimpin’. The Dynasty Roc la Familia was produced by the Neptunes and Kanye West and made the hit I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me). The album that solidified his status as a top New York rapper was the 2001 The Blueprint. The track Takeover caused a stir when Jay Z dissed Nas which started the publicized feud between the two. Up for the challenge, Nas responded with Ether. The double LP sequel The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse created the hit with his future wife Beyoncé 03 Bonnie & Clyde and the chart-topping Crazy in Love from her own album. Planning to retire, he revealed the 2003 Def Jam project The Black Album spawning hits like Dirt Off Your Shoulder and 99 Problems. 

Business Endeavours

After a farewell tour, Jay focused on entrepreneurship and became the president of Def Jam Records, a transition which few artists succeeded in. He introduced his Roc-a-Fella label in exchange for his presidency at Def Jam. The company was in trouble but Jay managed to bring it back with successful acts like Rihanna and Young Jeezy.

Music Comeback

Jay decided to come back to music with albums like Kingdom Come and American Gangster. He left Def Jam and founded the label, music publisher, and talent agency Roc Nation through Live Nation. The 2009 The Blueprint 3 album topped the Billboard 200. He partnered with Kanye West and released the collab album Watch the Throne, debuting at number 1 in 2010. In 2012, his wife gave birth to daughter Blue Ivy, who was featured on his single Glory. His last album to date Magna Carta…Holy Grail was issued the following year, with a collaboration from Justin Timberlake and production from Timbaland. Jay Z received 9 nominations at the 2014 Grammy Awards.The following years, he would focus more on family life and have several collaborations and tours with his wife, Beyoncé.

Photo credit: Idolator