Known To His Parents As:
Interesting Facts About Jay-Z:
Jay-Z is the fourth child in his family. He has two sisters: Michelle (a.k.a. Mickey), an employee at Rocawear and Andrea (or Annie), a corrections officer at Riker's Island Prison. He also has a brother, Eric, who resides in upstate New York.
Jay-Z In His Own Words:
"Be fluid. Treat each project differently. Be water, man. The best style is no style. Because styles can be figured out. And when you have no style they can't figure you out." (Rolling Stone interview)
The Life & Times of S. Carter:
Jay-Z was raised by his single-parent mom Gloria. His father Adnes Reeves, who is now deceased, walked away when Jay was only 12. Left with no father figure to model after, young Shawn turned to the streets of Marcy for inspiration. He delved into drug-peddling and became involved in various clandestine street activities. He soon capitalized on his hustle and became a street rapper known as Jazzy in his neighborhood. He later modified the name to Jay-Z.
On the biographical song "December 4th," Gloria Carter reveals that her son's interest in rap peaked after she bought him a boom-box for his birthday. Jay later joined a rap group known as Original Flavor alongside his friend and mentor Jaz-O, and their hit "Hawaiian Sophie" would later jump-start a long and lucrative music career. Unable to secure a label deal, he decided to launch his own. Producer Clark Kent introduced Jigga to Dame Dash. Jay, Dame, and Kareem "Biggs" Burke, formed Roca-A-Fella in 1996.
With a home on which to build his rap staple, Jay-Z quickly scored with the classic debut Reasonable Doubt. The album only reached #23 on the Billboard charts, but it's widely recognized as an indisputable hip-hop masterwork. Led by singles like "Ain't No N****a" (featuring another budding rapper known as Foxy Brown) and the Mary J Blige-assisted "Can't Knock The Hustle," the album embodied details of Jay's street dealings and difficult childhood. But, his witty wordplay coupled with an exceptional flow was the highlight of the show.
"I'm Not a Businessman...I'm a Business, Man":
Jay veered into a more mainstream sound with his sophomore album, In My Lifetime Vol 1. On The Black Album's "Moment of Clarity," he hinted that the move was a financial plot ("I dumbed down my audience and doubled my dollars"). Despite In My Lifetime's pop-leaning sound, there were still brash songs like "Streets Is Watching" and "Rap Game/Crack Game." On the latter, Jay posed the question: "Who's the best emcee: Biggie, Jay-Z or Nas?" Little did he know that the issue would be re-visited years later by one of the rappers in question.
Nas Vs. Jay-Z:
In one of the most historic battles in hip-hop, Jay-Z engaged in a fierce rivalry with Queens rapper Nas over the imaginary "King of New York" crown. After years of subliminals, Jay dropped the Kanye West-produced insult, "Takeover," aimed at Nas and Mobb Deep. Nas fired back with "Ether," which many claim excelled over "Takeover." The beef took a dramatic turn as Jay-Z revealed that he had had an affair with Nas' ex-girlfriend. He later apologized for the comments following his mom's disdain.
I Declare Peace:
The two rappers stunned the world by ending the five year-long war-on-wax at Jay-Z's powerhouse concert in 2005 ironically titled "I Declare War." He declared peace instead. Thousands cheered and jubilated as Jay-Z and Nas took the stage together at the Continental Centre.
Def Jam Dynasty:
In 2004, Jay-Z announced his retirement from active recording with the farewell-themed Black Album. Shortly after, he accepted an offer to head seminal hip-hop label Def Jam. As Def Jam President, Jay was responsible for successfully launching the careers of Young Jeezy, Ne-Yo, Rihanna, and others. He also helped revitalize Mariah Carey's career with the Grammy-winning Def Jam release, The Emancipation of Mimi. Perhaps Jay's most jaw-dropping move was signing Nas to the label in a joint deal with Sony/Columbia.
Post-Retirement AlbumsIn September 2006, Jay-Z announced that he was ending what he described as "the worst retirement in history." On November 21st, Jay snapped his three-year hiatus with the release of Kingdom Come, his ninth solo album. Despite the album's lukewarm reception in the media, it charted at No.1 with 680,000 scans. American Gangster, a concept album inspired by the similarly-titled movie, followed a year later. In September 2009, Jay concluded his Blueprint series with the release of Blueprint 3.
End of PresidencyIn December 2007, Jay-Z decided to step down as Def Jam president, following the expiration of his contract.
- 1996 - Reasonable Doubt
- 1997 - In My Lifetime Vol. 1 (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam)
- 1998 - Streets Is Watching Soundtrack (Roc-A-Fella)
- 1998 - Vol. 2 Hardknock Life
- 1999 - Vol.3...Life & Times of S.Carter
- 2000 - The Dynasty: Roc-La-Familia
- 2001 - MTV Unplugged (with The Roots)
- 2001 - The Blueprint
- 2002 - The Best of Both Worlds (with R.Kelly)
- 2002 - The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam)
- 2003 - The Black Album (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam)
- 2004 - The Best of Both Worlds 2: Unfinished Business (with R.Kelly)
- 2004 - Collision Course (with Linkin Park)
- 2006 - Kingdom Come
- 2007 - American Gangster
- 2009 - The Blueprint 3