Jay-Z Biography

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Shawn Corey Carter, popularly known as Jay-Z, is one of the biggest names in the music industry. His success in the music industry is also matched by success in other spheres including business where he runs a successful entertainment company called Roc Nation. More than 50 million copies of his albums have been sold globally, some of his songs topping in the Billboard 200. His wide music base shows his qualities of hard work as well as a dogged aspiration to succeed.

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Early life

Shawn Corey Carter was the last born son to Gloria Carter and Adnes Reeves. He was born on April 12, 1969, in Brooklyn New York. His father abandoned the family when Jay-Z was only 11 years old, and his mother took over the parenting responsibilities, raising the four children on her own. Jay-Z and his family were raised in a neighborhood that many would not wish to raise their children in, as the gun and drug culture were rampant and pervasive in the Marcy Projects ("Jay-Z Biography", 2016). He became involved in crack business and was soon drawn to the prevalent gun culture, so much that he shot his elder brother on the shoulder for claims that he had pocketed his jewelry. He attended various schools including George Westinghouse Career, the Technical Education High School, Eli Whitney School and Trenton Central High School. It was during his school days that his paths crossed with the legendary hip hop star Notorious Big and Busta Rhymes. His interest in music was piqued when his mother bought him a boom box as a birthday present. He then began free styling, composing his own lyrics and learning from the famous artists of the time. He came under the tutelage of Jaz-O, who taught him the basics of rapping. He later changed his name to Jay-Z to pay homage to his mentor, as he was commonly referred to as Jazzy in his neighborhood ("Jay-Z Biography - life, family, childhood, children, name, story, mother, young, son - Newsmakers Cumulation", 2016).

Music career

Though he was not famous for some brief moments in his early life, he soon slowly rose to fame with his collaboration with Kareem Burke and Damon Dash. Roc-A-Fella Records was later formed by the trio. His first album called Reasonable Doubt was released in 1996. Though it was not well received by the audience, it is regarded as one of the greatest compilations of all time. It contained such hits as Cant Knock the Hustle and Brooklyns Finest. His second album titled Hard Knocks shot him to stardom as it was considered his most successful compilation to date. The release of the album in 1998 marked the beginning of his fame and longevity in the industry. He released his successful third album in 1999 Life and Times of S. Carter. The dawn of the millennium saw him release The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, which was meant to be a collaboration with various artists but ended up featuring Jay-Z only (Reid & Reid, 2004). It was during this year that he launched his cloth line named Rocawear. Between 2001 and 2005, he produced and sold millions of copies of his works including The Blueprint, The Blueprint 2: the Gift & the Curse and the Black Album. It was during this period that he announced his retirement from the music industry, citing lack of competition. He was named the President of The Def Jam Records after his performance at the Madison Square. He opened a chain of sports bars dubbed 40/40 Club, a name that was derived from baseball terminology. In 2005, he was involved in the promotion of Powerhouse, an event hosted by New Yorks Power 105.1. In the following year, he released Kingdom Come, which was leaked before its official release, causing a major storm. Jay-Z took over the urban cloth line The Rocawear in 2006 and sold it to the Iconix Brand Group up to the tune of $204 million. He went on to release a series of successful albums including American Gangster and Blueprint 3.

Jay-Zs music career was marred with controversial incidences, some which led to the arrest and some led to feuds with fellow rappers. He was arrested after an altercation ensued between him and Entertainment Records Executive Lance Rivera that led to the executive sustaining stab wounds on the shoulder and the stomach. The tussle came about when Jay-Z accused the producer of releasing bootleg copies of his album, which would deny the rapper his rightful share of profits from the sale of the album. The rapper pleaded not guilty during his arraignment in 2000 ("Jay-Z Facts, information, pictures | Encyclopedia.com articles about Jay-Z", 2016).

Jay-Zs album, The Blueprint has a record attacking Nassir Jones, popularly known as Nas. Ether was a reply by Nas to the Takeover, the track attacking the rapper. The battle between the two rappers heated up with each passing month. Jay-Z released a freestyle at a New York radio station dubbed Super Ugly, which was a continuation of scathing attacks on Nas. The feud cooled down after fears that it would only result in tragedy as had happened earlier between two rap bigwigs Notorious Big and Tupac Shakur. During his performance of the Takeover at an MTV Unplugged session, Jay-Z was quoted saying that feuding was the essence of hip hop, though it should not go beyond the written material. A tour dubbed Best of Both Worlds that involved rap bigwig Jay-Z and R&B sensational R Kelly ended up in ugly incidences during the 2001 Madison Square performance where R Kelly refused to perform claiming threats from some of the fans wielding guns at him. He also claimed that one of Jay-Zs entourage member had pepper sprayed him so he could not perform. Jay-Z, on the other hand, claimed that Kelly was jealous and insecure and did not need him (Reid & Reid, 2004).

Business Empire

Jay-Z had a knack for squeezing a dollar from every opportunity he got. He would produce for other artists and charge them some fee whenever he was not doing his own music. This would later translate to vast amounts of wealth that have made him one of the most successful rappers the music industry has ever witnessed. As the president of Def Jam Records, Jay-Z signed such promising talents as Neyo, Rihanna, and Young Jeezy as well as helping in the transition of Kanye West from a producer to the best-selling recording artist. He, however, resigned from the label after misunderstandings with the label executives.

In 2008, Jay-Z formed the Roc Nation, an entertainment company that takes care of a vast majority of an artists career. The company manages such huge names as Kanye West, Timbaland, and Rihanna among a host of other big names (Reid & Reid, 2004). Other business ventures under his tag include the urban clothing Line, Rocawear and Roc-a-Fella Films. He added the 40/40 club, a sports bar that runs in New York City and Atlantic City. He also owns some of Brooklyn Nets basketball franchise which moved to its new venue, the Barclays Center in 2012. He diversified his portfolio by launching Roc Nation Sports, a sports management company. He sold his shares in the basketball franchise to finalize this new deal (Z & Z, 1969).

He later launched Tidal, a music streaming service, with a host of other musicians including Niki Minaj among others in 2015. The service has had quite a following, hitting one million users in September 2015. It has however faced stiff competition from the market as well as protracted legal battles and high turnover of the top executives.

Much as he is famed and popular, he divulges little of his private life. His relationship with the popular singer Beyonce, for instance, was a closely guarded affair, only becoming official during their wedding. Even the wedding was a highly kept secret, with only about 40 people attending at the rappers New York penthouse. The birth of their daughter, Blue Ivy Carter was a media sensation, but the couple did not like the publicity that came with it. They rented part of Lennox Hill Hospital and hired extra guards to keep off curious press and fans from invading into the privacy of their baby.

From growing up in New York Marcy Projects, Jay-Z has grown to be a household name not only in the music industry but also in the business world, amassing huge wealth in the process.


Jay-Z Biography. (2016). Thefamouspeople.com. Retrieved 7 June 2016, from http://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/shawn-corey-carter-1772.php

Jay-Z Biography - life, family, childhood, children, name, story, mother, young, son - Newsmakers Cumulation. (2016). Notablebiographies.com. Retrieved 7 June 2016, from http://www.notablebiographies.com/newsmakers2/2006-Ei-La/Jay-Z.html

Jay-Z Facts, information, pictures | Encyclopedia.com articles about Jay-Z. (2016). Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 7 June 2016, from http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Jay-Z.aspx

Reid, S. & Reid, S. (2004). Jay-Z, R. Kelly Part Ways as Best Of Both Worlds Tour Collapses. MTV News. Retrieved 7 June 2016, from http://www.mtv.com/news/1493311/jay-z-r-kelly-part-ways-as-best-of-both-worlds-tour-collapses/

Z, J. & Z, J. (1969). Jay-Z - Bio, Facts, Family | Famous Birthdays. Famous Birthdays. Retrieved 7 June 2016, from http://www.famousbirthdays.com/people/jay-z.html

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