Real Name: Shawn Corey Carter
D.O.B.: December 4th, 1968 Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn, New York
Jay-Z, is something more than a hip-hop rap artist. He has just stepped down as the ‘Boss of hip-hop’ and moved in the direction of bigger things… Ten platinum-plaqued studio albums, ex-retiree, former president and CEO of Def Jam Recordings and founder/CEO of Roc-A-Fella Records. In addition, he co-owns The 40/40 Club and the New Jersey Nets NBA team. He is one of the most financially successful hip-hop artists and entrepreneurs in America. Known for his flow and blending of street and popular style, he can compose lyrics without the use of pen and paper. His critically acclaimed album The Blueprint was allegedly written in only two days. After announcing his retirement from recording music in 2003, he returned in late 2006 with the album Kingdom Come which sold 680,000 copies in its first week, Jay-Z’s highest-selling album in a one-week period. As the richest hip-hop Entertainer having a net-worth estimate of $600 million, Jay-Z runs this motherfucker!
The Early Years
Originally from Marcy Houses housing project in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbourhood of Brooklyn in New York City, Jay-Z was abandoned by his father Adnes Reeves when he was twelve years old. 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, with fellow rappers Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes, and Trenton Central High School in Trenton, New Jersey, but did not graduate. He claims to have been caught up in selling drugs, to which he refers in his music. 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 and thus sparked his interest in music. He began freestyling, writing rhymes, and followed the music of many artists popular at the time. It is stated that he beat Busta Rhymes in a rap battle, but also has lost to DMX.
In his neighbourhood, Carter was known as “Jazzy”, a nickname that eventually developed into his stage name, “Jay-Z”. The moniker is also a homage to his musical mentor Jaz-O (a.k.a. Jaz, Big Jaz) as well as to the J/Z subway lines that have a stop at Marcy Avenue in Brooklyn. Jay-Z can be heard on several of Jaz-O’s early recordings in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Jaz/Jay-Z collabo, High Potent dropped the unheard 12 inch cut, “HP Gets Busy” 12inch (Get Live, 1986). Within a few years Jay recorded “The Originators” and “Hawaiian Sophie”. He also collaborated with Inglewood, California producer Three-1-Zero. 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 also 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 Q-Man and Ja Rule and Shazim Hasan in 1995. His first official rap single was called “I Can’t Get With That” which he also released a music video for.
From the beginning of his commercial recording career, Jay-Z chose a route that many would consider untraditional. When no major label gave him a record deal, Jay-Z created Roc-A-Fella Records as his own independent label. After striking a deal with Priority to distribute his material, Jay-Z released his 1996 début album, Reasonable Doubt with beats from acclaimed producers such as DJ Premier and Clark Kent and a notable appearance by Notorious B.I.G. Despite reaching only #23 on the Billboard 200, the album was a critical success.
After reaching a new distribution deal with Def Jam in 1997, Jay-Z released his follow-up In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. Executive 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’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. Jay-Z mentioned on the YES Network’s “CenterStage with Michael Kay” show that if he could do one thing in his career over, it would be Vol. 1, claiming that “it [the cd] was this close to being a classic, but I put like, a few songs on there that ruined it.” Example is that he was referring to “I Know What Girls Like” and “(Always Be My) Sunshine”, both of which were produced by Bad Boy beatmakers and criticized as a commercialization of his sound. Like its predecessor, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 also earned Platinum status in the U.S.
1998’s Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life spawned the biggest hit of his career at the time, “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)”. He also relied more on flow and brilliant wordplay, and he continued 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 tapped for beats 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 5x platinum in the United States and has to date sold over 8 million worldwide. 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. Despite continued criticism for his increasingly pop-oriented sound, the album proved to be successful and went platinum three times and sold over 5.6 million records worldwide. Through his lyricism, he was able to retain respect from some of his die-hard fans. Vol. 3 is remembered for its smash hit, “Big Pimpin’” (feat. UGK). By this time, Jay-Z was seen as a hip-hop figurehead both by hardcore fans and by the hip-hop industry due to his lyrics and his high album sales.
The subject of much criticism, praise, popularity, condemnation, and discussion, Jay-Z decided to begin developing other artists. Around 2000, he and Damon Dash signed various artists (including “Dynasty” members Amil, Beanie Sigel and Memphis Bleek) and began introducing them to the public. He next appeared on The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, which was intended as a compilation album to introduce these new artists, though the album had Jay-Z’s name on it to strengthen market recognition and by extension, sales. This strategy worked to an extent - The Dynasty: Roc La Familia sold over 2 million units in the U.S. alone.
2001’s The Blueprint is considered by many to be one of hip hop’s “classic” albums, receiving the coveted “5 mic” review from The Source magazine. Released on September 11, 2001, the album managed to début at #1, selling more than 450,000 albums in its first week. The success of the album was overshadowed by the terrorist attacks that same day. Blueprint was applauded for its production and the balance of “mainstream” and “hardcore” rap, receiving recognition from both audiences. Eminem was the only guest artist on the album, producing and rapping on the single “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 also includes the popular “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” and “Takeover”, a song that takes on rivals Prodigy of Mobb Deep and Nas. Blueprint has obtained a 2x Platinum status in the U.S. This album was the first album not to feature Amil, who was dropped in late 2000 because of a feud between Jay-Z/Roc-A-Fella and herself, caused by her meagre album sales and her weight gain, since his breakthrough album Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life.
Jay-Z’s next solo album was 2002’s 4 million (U.S. only) selling The Blueprint 2: The Gift & the Curse, a double-album. It was later reissued in a single-disc version, The Blueprint 2.1, which retained half of the tracks from the original and went on to sell a further 800,000 copies. The album spawned two massive hit singles, “Excuse Me Miss” and “‘03 Bonnie and Clyde” featuring Jay-Z’s girlfriend of four years Beyoncé Knowles. “Guns & Roses”, a track featuring Lenny Kravitz, and “Hovi Baby” were two successful radio singles as well. The album also 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 (who, at that time, was not yet an artist). The Blueprint 2.1 features tracks that do not appear on BP2, such as “Stop”, “La La La (Excuse Me Again)”, “What They Gonna Do, Part II” and “Beware” produced by and featuring Punjabi MC.
In 1999, Jay-Z was accused of stabbing record executive Lance “Un” Rivera for what he 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 misdemeanour charge that resulted in a sentence of three years probation. Jay-Z makes reference to the trial and incident on his songs “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)”, on The Blueprint, “Threat”, on The Black Album, “I Did It My Way” on The Blueprint 2: The Curse, and “Dear Summer”, which was included in Memphis Bleek’s 2005 release 534. Nas references this on “Ether” with the lyrics: “your man stabbed ‘Un’ and made you take the blame.”
Nas vs. Jay-Z
Tension between the two supposedly dates as far back as 1996, when Nas refused to make a guest appearance on Jay-Z’s début album Reasonable Doubt. However, the relationship between the two rappers remained peaceful (Jay-Z even giving a shout-out to Nas in his album liner notes) and the tension did not escalate to full-blown rivalry until after the death of the Notorious B.I.G. The position of favourite rapper in New York seemed vacant after the death of Biggie, and fans were eager to see who would take over.
The dispute involved many of the rappers, especially associates at Roc-a-Fella Records, who declared an all-out war against Nas. However, the feud died down somewhat toward the end of 2002. It is believed by most that Nas won this battle, though it is still a subject of intense debate. New York radio station Hot 97 settled took votes matching “Ether”/”Stillmatic” against “Takeover”/”Supa Ugly,” and Nas won with 58% while Jay-Z got 42% of the votes. Nas and Jay-Z have paid tribute to each other in interviews, likening the battle to a world title boxing match that pitched the best against the best, and pleased with the entertainment it provided fans. After Jay-Z signed Nas to Def Jam (of which Jay-Z is president and CEO), he also featured on Nas’s first Def Jam album - “Hip Hop Is Dead” where he does a song with Nas called “Black Republican.” The rivalry also impacted their careers critically and commercially. The battle was significant in that it revived the trend of using ‘beefs’ as a source for publicity and promotion for hip hop artists, originally unpopular following the tragic deaths of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. now prevalent within the hip-hop community.
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”. The latter was a cross-over hit comparable to the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” which some believe pays homage to the now-rare old-school rap style. 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. It also 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, as Jay-Z raps, “I’m not a biter I’m a writer for myself and others/I say a Big verse I’m only biggin’ up my brother.” During that same year, Jay-Z supplied new rhymes on a remix of Punjabi MC’s “Mundian To Bach Ke”, a desi rap jam that Jay became enamoured of after hearing it at a nightclub in Hong Kong. Re-released as “Beware of the Boys”, the East-West hip-hop fusion track charted in North America. The Black Album has sold 3 million copies in the US.
In 2004, there was a runaway hit remix project by Danger Mouse called The Grey Album in which Jay-Z’s Black Album vocals were blended with instrumentals sampled exclusively from The Beatles’ White Album (which subsequently embroiled the DJ in a lawsuit that was later dropped with EMI, the owners of the Beatles’ work). This was made possible by an a cappella version of the “Black Album” that Jay-Z released with the specific intent for others to mix. The success of The Grey Album led to a rainbow of Black Album remix projects including The Red Album, The Blue Album and so forth.
Also 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 also performed with Linkin Park live at the Grammys, with a special appearance by Paul McCartney, who added verses from his song Yesterday. The EP sold over two million copies in the US alone.
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, Beyoncé, 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, Linkin Park and Phish. Jay-Z was the executive producer of Fort Minor’s debut album The Rising Tied. Mike Shinoda got together with Jay-Z himself, as well as his Linkin Park bandmate Brad Delson, and they went over what tracks they thought should make the album.
“I Declare War” Concert
Having been such a visible artist in the late 1990s through the early 2000s, Jay-Z has been the subject of more rap-related controversy than most artists in mainstream hip-hop. Some of these have been resolved, some are ongoing, and some have simply dissipated. 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 to whom exactly Jay-Z would declare war on. 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. However, an anticipated response to subliminal shots taken by The Game and Cam’ron never materialized.
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. Nas’s verses were rapped over the “Dead Presidents” beat in the vein of a mix song done by DJ Statik Selektah. Nas also performed songs of his own later in the show.
Disagreements between other artists were also brought to a close (or put on hold) at the Powerhouse show. The event brought together for the first time in years, Diddy and The LOX, both having had a long-standing animosity due to a contract agreement and the latter’s departure from Bad Boy Entertainment. Shortly after the concert, the altercation was fully rectified. The event also saw the return of Beanie Sigel from incarceration. There had been some speculation that Beanie Sigel was going to depart from Roc-A-Fella Records, but this concert proved otherwise. Beanie and The LOX’s Jadakiss also officially ended their own argument when they, Jay-Z, the rest of the LOX and Sauce Money (who had been thought to have some animosity towards Jay-Z, but this was also untrue) all performed the song “Reservoir Dogs”.
2008: Glastonbury Festival
It was announced on February 2, 2008 that Jay-Z would headline the 2008 Glastonbury Festival, becoming the first major hip hop artist to headline the British festival. Tickets sold out before the opening of the festival. One of the more outspoken critics of his selection was Noel Gallagher of Oasis fame, who criticized the organizers of the festival for scheduling Jay-Z as a headliner for the traditionally guitar-driven festival, 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.
He also headlined many other summer festivals in 2008, including Roskilde Festival in Denmark, Hove Festival in Norway and O2 Wireless Festival in London . 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 struck a multi-million 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 comp any and also partnered up with production team Stargate to start a record label called StarRoc.
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 Williams, Kanye West, Dr. Dre and Coldplay’s Chris Martin (single entitled “Beach Chair”). This album has already sold 2 million copies in the U.S. alone. Jay-Z made a guest appearance on the Fall Out Boy album Infinity On High. In June 2007, Jay-Z got number one song on the Billboard Hot 100, Umbrella with Rihanna becoming his first number one since Crazy in Love with Beyoncé. Umbrella was at #1 for 7 weeks on the Hot 100. Jay-Z appeared on rapper T.I.’s album T.I. vs. T.I.P. on the song “Watch What You Say to Me”.
Jay-Z released his tenth album entitled American Gangster on November 6, 2007. After viewing the film, 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. According to the XXL Magazine, which featured Jay-Z on it’s cover, he gave further detail into “American Gangster.” Jay-Z’s American Gangster depicts his life in correlation to the movie American Gangster. Jay-Z reported,
“When I saw the movie, the way Denzel portrayed the character, you know, we never seen a black guy ascend this high in a movie before, to being over the mob. So immediately that struck with me. Like, the success of it all. I took that emotion and pulled it into my song. So it’s my own movie. I call it an indie film now – that’s my new shit. It’s the indie-film version of 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 would not remain at Def Jam as the company’s President, and vacated the position effective of January 1, 2008.
Jay-Z’s 11th studio album The Blueprint 3 was originally to be released on September 11, 2009 but was instead released in North America on September 8, 2009 due to increasing anticipation. Its international release followed on September 14. It is his 11th album to reach No.1 on the Billboard 200 and has surpassed Elvis Presley’s previous record, making him the current record holder.
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. 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. 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. 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. Fela! is a story about an African pioneer and political activist who made his first moves on the scene during the 1970s.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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 #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 #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.
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.
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. The album has not yet been released; it has been confirmed 3 songs have been recorded and one of which features Frank Ocean.
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. 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. He redirected the hip hop culture from hooded sweatshirts and baggy jeans to button-ups and crisp jeans, and received GQ’s International Man of the Year award. Jay-Z announced on December 24, 2007 that he will not remain at Def Jam as the company’s President, and will vacate the position effective January 1, 2008.
Jay-Z co-founded Roc-A-Fella Records with partners Damon Dash and Kareem “Biggs” Burke. Def Jam purchased a 50% stake in the company in 1997 for a reported $1.5 million. In late 2004, Jay-Z, Dash and Biggs sold their remaining interests in Roc-A-Fella Records and the Def Jam Recordings by Island Def Jam chairman L. A. Reid. Reportedly this major industry move was prompted by disagreement between Jay-Z and Dash as to what new ventures 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. Dash currently operates the recently-founded Dame Dash Music Group as a joint venture with Island Def Jam producing some former Roc-A-Fella artists.
In 1999, Jay-Z co-founded the urban clothing brand Rocawear with Roc-A-Fella Records partners Damon Dash and Kareem “Biggs” Burke. 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 of 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.
Jay-Z co-owns The 40/40 Club, an upscale sports bar that started in New York City and has since expanded to Atlantic City, NJ. Future plans will see 40/40 Clubs in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Singapore. Roc-A-Fella also distributes Armadale, a Scottish vodka, in the U.S. On October 16, 2006, Jay-Z’s new commercial spot with Anheuser-Busch aired, featuring his latest single “Show Me What You Got”. Jay-Z will serve as co-brand director for Budweiser Select while collaborating with the company on strategic marketing programs and creative ad development. He will be providing direction on brand programs and ads that appear on TV, radio, print, and high-profile events.
Jay-Z has 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 considering on constructing a high-end hotel or an art gallery building on the newly acquired site which has the potential to go up about 12 stories. Jay-Z is a part-owner of the New Jersey Nets NBA team paying a reported $4.5 million for his share. He is also interested in relocating the team to Brooklyn. In October 2005, he was reported in English media as considering buying a stake of Arsenal FC, an English football (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. Through his company Gain Global Investments Network LLC, had an interest estimated between 2 and 7% in the Aqueduct Entertainment Group (AEG) consortium which in January 2010 was awarded a contract to operate a 4,500 slot machine racino at the Aqueduct Race Track. Jay-Z became interested in the project after New York Governor David Paterson who awarded the contract said there had to be an affirmative action component to the ownership. Jay-Z initially approached Steve Wynn who was also bidding on the contract. On March 9, 2010, Jay-Z and Flake withdrew from the project and Paterson recused himself from further involvement.
On November 16, 2010, Jay-Z published a memoir entitled Decoded.
- 1996 Reasonable Doubt (Platinum)
- 1997 In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (Platinum)
- 1998 Hard Knock Life (5x Platinum)
- 1999 Life and Times of S. Carter (3x Platinum)
- 2000 The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (2x Platinum)
- 2001 The Blueprint (2x Platinum)
- 2002 Blueprint 2: The Gift & the Curse (4x Platinum)
- 2003 The Black Album (3x Platinum)
- 2006 Kingdom Come (2x Platinum)
- 2007 American Gangster (Platinum) (reviewed here)
- 2009 Blueprint 3 (2x Platinum)
- 1998 Streets Is Watching soundtrack
- 2002 The Best of Both Worlds (w. R Kelly) (Platinum)
- 2004 Unfinished Business (w. R Kelly) (Platinum)
- 2004 Collision Course (w. Linkin Park) (Platinum)
- 2011 Watch The Throne (w. Kanye West)