Arguably one of the most financially successful rappers today, is Jay-Z, born Shawn Corey Carter. In his early 20s, Carter was turned down by all the record labels in his business. He was told he was too old, not “hard” enough. But instead of abandoning his dream, he released his own album on his own label at the age of 26. When Jay-Z was offered a weak deal from a clothing brand who was benefiting from his endorsements, he rejected it and started his own clothing line to compete with the brand. Today, Jay-Z and his wife, Beyoncé, are worth over an estimated $900 million. The couple welcomed their first baby in 2012.
Shawn Corey Carter (born December 4, 1969), known by his stage name Jay-Z (sometimes stylized as Jay Z, or JAY Z), is an American rapper, record producer, and entrepreneur. He is one of the most financially successful hip-hop artists and entrepreneurs in America. In 2014, Forbes estimated Carter’s net worth at nearly $520 million. He is one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time, having sold more than 75 million records, while receiving 19 Grammy Awards for his musical work, and numerous additional nominations. Consistently ranked as one of the greatest rappers ever, he was ranked number one by MTV in their list of The Greatest MCs of All-Time in 2006. Three of his albums, Reasonable Doubt (1996), The Blueprint (2001), and The Black Album (2003), are considered landmarks in the genre with all of them featured in Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
As an entrepreneur and investor, Jay-Z co-owns the 40/40 Club, and is the co-creator of the clothing line Rocawear. He is the former president of Def Jam Recordings, co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records, and the founder of Roc Nation. He also founded the sports agency Roc Nation Sports and is a certified NBA and MLB sports agent. As an artist, he holds the record for most number one albums by a solo artist on the Billboard 200 with 13. Jay-Z also has had four number ones on the Billboard Hot 100, one as lead artist. On December 11, 2009, Jay-Z was ranked as 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. He was also ranked the 88th greatest artist of all time by Rolling Stone.
Jay-Z married American R&B singer Beyoncé in 2008. They have a daughter named Blue Ivy Carter, born January 7, 2012.
Shawn Carter is originally from Marcy Houses, a housing project in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. He and his three siblings were raised by their mother, Gloria Carter, after their father abandoned the family. He claims in his lyrics that in 1982, at the age of 12, he shot his older brother in the shoulder for stealing his jewelry. Carter attended Eli Whitney High School in Brooklyn, along with future rapper AZ, until it was closed down. After that he attended George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School in Downtown Brooklyn, with fellow future rappers The Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes, and Trenton Central High School in Trenton, New Jersey, but did not graduate. In his music he refers to having been involved in selling crack cocaine. He has also said he had been shot at three times during this time in his life.
According to his mother, Carter 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, sparking his interest in music. He began freestyling, writing lyrics, and followed the music of many artists popular at the time. In his neighborhood, Carter was known as “Jazzy”, a nickname that eventually developed into his showbiz/stage name, “Jay-Z”. The moniker is also an homage to his musical mentor, Jaz-O. On 18 July 2013, he announced he was leaving out the hyphen, and prefers to be known as “Jay Z.”
Jay-Z can briefly be heard on several of Jaz-O’s early recordings in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including “The Originators” and “Hawaiian Sophie”. Jay-Z was also involved in several battles with rapper LL Cool J in the early ’90s. He first became known to a wide audience by being featured 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, although Kane explains that he didn’t fill the traditional hype man role, 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”. The young Jay-Z 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, 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.”
In the business world, Jay-Z has also established himself as a successful 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. In an interview, he stated that “my brands are an extension of me. They’re close to me. It’s not like running GM, where there’s no emotional attachment.” He is the founder of the urban clothing brand Rocawear along with Damon Dash. 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 Dash. In March 2007, Jay-Z sold the rights to the Rocawear brand to Iconix Brand Group, for $204 million. He retains his stake in the company and continues to oversee the marketing, licensing and product development. He also co-owns the 40/40 Club, an upscale sports bar that started in New York City and has since expanded to Atlantic City and Chicago. In 2008, the 40/40 club in Las Vegas was closed down and bought back by the hotel after attendance steadily declined. Future plans will see 40/40 Clubs in Tokyo and Singapore. In 2005, Jay-Z became an investor in Carol’s Daughter, a line of beauty products, including products for hair, skin, and hands. In September 2013, his stake in Barclays Center was sold for $1.5 million.
Jay-Z serves as co-brand director for Budweiser Select and collaborates with the company on strategic marketing programs and creative ad development. He provides direction on brand programs and ads that appear on TV, radio, print, and high-profile events. He is also yet to expand his 40/40 Club sports bar in as many as 20 airports, as he makes deals with his business partners, Juan and Desiree Perez. He is a part-owner of the Brooklyn Nets NBA team, having paid a reported $4.5 million for his share, which declined in value to $350,000 in April 2013. He encouraged the team’s relocation to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center (from New Jersey) in the 2012–2013 season, at which point the team took on the Brooklyn Nets moniker. In October 2005, he was reported in English media as considering buying a stake of Arsenal F.C., an English 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, he 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.
In April 2011, it was widely reported that Jay-Z had outbid executives at Universal Records and Jive Records to acquire independent record label Block Starz Music.
Jay-Z is also credited as the executive producer of the basketball video game NBA 2K13, where he worked on the look and feel of the game along with its soundtrack.
On April 2, 2013, ESPN reported that Jay-Z will be launching his own sports agency, Roc Nation Sports. The sport management group will work as partners with Creative Artists Agency. In conjunction with the agency’s launch, New York Yankees’s second basemen Robinson Cano has left agent Scott Boras to sign with the company. Sources have made mention that Jay-Z himself is planning to be a certified sports agent, first in baseball and eventually in basketball and football. In order to represent clients in basketball, he would have to give up his small share of the Brooklyn Nets. On April 18, 2013 Jay-Z officially announced through his Life + Times website in a press release that he will be relinquishing his ownership in the Brooklyn Nets. The shares were eventually sold to American singer, rapper, actor and entrepreneur Wilber Pan, making Wilber the first American of Taiwanese descent to own a US professional sports franchise. Jay-Z’s cited Wilber’s athletic background as a team captain of his high school basketball team and playing in college, his multitude of musical styles, influence in the Taiwanese American community, as well as his business acumen and portfolio, including him being the founder and chief executive of a software company Camigo Media and a co-founder of streetwear boutique N.P.C (New Project Center) as reasons why his bid was successful.
Relationship with Beyoncé
Jay-Z is married to American R&B singer Beyoncé. In 2002, Jay-Z and Beyoncé collaborated for the song “’03 Bonnie & Clyde”. Jay-Z also appeared on Beyoncé’s hit single “Crazy in Love” and as well as “That’s How You Like It” from her debut Dangerously in Love. On her second album, B’Day, he made appearances on the 2006 hits, “Déjà Vu” and “Upgrade U”. In the video for the latter song, she comically imitates his appearance. The couple generally avoid discussing their relationship. Beyoncé has stated that she believes that not publicly discussing their relationship has helped them. Jay-Z said in a People article, “We don’t play with our relationship.” They kept a low profile while dating, and married quietly in April 2008. It became a matter of public record on April 22, 2008, but Beyoncé did not publicly debut her $5 million Lorraine Schwartz-designed wedding ring until the Fashion Rocks concert on September 5, 2008 in New York City.
Beyoncé and Jay-Z were listed as the most powerful couple for TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2006. In January 2009, Forbes ranked them as Hollywood’s top-earning couple, with a combined total of $162 million. They also made it to the top of the list the following year, with a combined total of $122 million between June 2008 and June 2009.
At the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, Beyoncé revealed that she was pregnant with their first childand on January 7, 2012, she gave birth to their daughter, named Blue Ivy Carter, at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. On January 9, 2012, Jay-Z released “Glory”, a song dedicated to their child, on his social website LifeandTimes.com. The song detailed the couple’s pregnancy struggles, including a miscarriage Beyoncé suffered before becoming pregnant with their daughter. Because Blue’s cries were included at the end of the song and she was officially credited on the song as “B.I.C”, at 2 days old she became the youngest person ever to appear on a Billboard chart when “Glory” debuted on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs at number 74.
During his retirement, Jay-Z also became involved in philanthropic activity. On August 9, 2006, he met with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan at the organization’s headquarters in New York City. The rapper pledged to use his upcoming world tour to raise awareness of and combat global water shortage. Already on the look-out for a way to, in his own words, “become helpful”, he had been made aware of this issue during a visit to Africa by Bono from the rock group U2. The effort took place in partnership with the UN, as well as MTV, which produced a documentary entitled Diary of Jay-Z: Water for Life, first airing in November 2006. Along with Sean “Diddy” Combs, Jay-Z pledged $1 million to the American Red Cross’ relief effort after Hurricane Katrina. Jay-Z stated his support for Kanye West after the latter’s outburst against President Bush during a live Katrina charity telethon. He also addressed the issue of the Katrina disaster, and the government’s response, in his one verse song “Minority Report”.
In 2006, Jay-Z appeared with Russell Simmons in a PSA combatting racism and anti-Semitism that organized by the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding. By 2008, Jay-Z got actively involved in politics during the 2008 presidential campaign, where he supported increased voter participation and helped send voters to polling stations. He was an early supporter for the candidacy of Illinois senator and subsequent U.S. president Barack Obama, performing for free in voter-drive concerts financed by the Democrats’ campaign. He also became acquainted with Obama himself, who stated “Every time I talk to Jay-Z, who is a brilliant talent and a good guy, I enjoy how he thinks. That’s somebody who is going to start branching out and can help shape attitudes in a real positive way.” During the 2010 mid-term elections’ campaign, Jay-Z appeared, along with other artists, in an ad prepared by the HeadCount organization, urging voters, and especially younger ones, to register and vote. In May 2012, Jay-Z announced his endorsement of President Obama’s support of same-sex marriage for gay couples and participated in his re-election campaign.
Musician and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte has been openly critical of Jay-Z and Beyoncé in their relatively safe political stances, saying that they “have turned their back on social responsibility” in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter. A Syracuse University finance professor is also of this view, pointing to Jay-Z’s only giving $6,000 to charity after making $63 million in 2012. He also voiced that the hip-hop mogul likely would never have come out in support of gay marriage had President Obama not first taken the position.
Main article: Jay-Z discography
- Reasonable Doubt (1996)
- In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997)
- Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life (1998)
- Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter (1999)
- The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (2000)
- The Blueprint (2001)
- The Best of Both Worlds (with R. Kelly) (2002)
- The Blueprint2: The Gift & The Curse (2002)
- The Black Album (2003)
- Unfinished Business (with R. Kelly) (2004)
- Kingdom Come (2006)
- American Gangster (2007)
- The Blueprint 3 (2009)
- Watch the Throne (with Kanye West) (2011)
- Magna Carta Holy Grail (2013)