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|Also Known As:||Virgil Carter||Died:|
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One of the most respected and influential musical artists of any genre, Jay-Z set the gold standard in rap music with his thought-provoking lyrics, powerful freestyle delivery, and entrepreneurial swagger. The rapper's 1996 debut album, Reasonable Doubt was considered an undisputed classic by music fans and critics. Throughout his career, Jay-Z released more No. 1 albums than Elvis Presley, discovered hit-making artists and producers, and built a one-man empire that included successful ventures in business, fashion and sports. If that were not enough, he also married pop princess Beyoncé Knowles. After a two-year retirement from making music, Jay-Z returned with even more ambitious albums and collaborations that earned him a reputation as rap's elder statesman. In 2009, Jay-Z released "Empire State of Mind," a chart-topping song that celebrated his home state of New York, while also crowning the prolific and omnipresent rapper as his generation's hip-hop Frank Sinatra. Although Jay-Z later presented himself more as an entrepreneurial businessman than a hit recording artist, later albums such as Watch the Throne, a collaboration with Kanye West, and Magna Carta...Holy Grail were treated as major...
One of the most respected and influential musical artists of any genre, Jay-Z set the gold standard in rap music with his thought-provoking lyrics, powerful freestyle delivery, and entrepreneurial swagger. The rapper's 1996 debut album, Reasonable Doubt was considered an undisputed classic by music fans and critics. Throughout his career, Jay-Z released more No. 1 albums than Elvis Presley, discovered hit-making artists and producers, and built a one-man empire that included successful ventures in business, fashion and sports. If that were not enough, he also married pop princess Beyoncé Knowles. After a two-year retirement from making music, Jay-Z returned with even more ambitious albums and collaborations that earned him a reputation as rap's elder statesman. In 2009, Jay-Z released "Empire State of Mind," a chart-topping song that celebrated his home state of New York, while also crowning the prolific and omnipresent rapper as his generation's hip-hop Frank Sinatra. Although Jay-Z later presented himself more as an entrepreneurial businessman than a hit recording artist, later albums such as Watch the Throne, a collaboration with Kanye West, and Magna Carta...Holy Grail were treated as major musical events.
Born Shawn Corey Carter on Dec. 4, 1969, the future star was raised in the Marcy Projects of Brooklyn, NY. Abandoned by his father by the time he was 12, Jay-Z transferred to different neighborhood schools, including George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School, where he met fellow future hit-makers The Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes. He did not finish high school; instead dealt crack cocaine in the streets. Thankfully, his mother purchased a boom box for one of her wayward son's birthdays, setting off his possibly life-saving passion for music. The young man who was nicknamed "Jazzy" by his friends began writing lyrics and freestyle rapping in his neighborhood. In the early 1990s, he competed in local rap battles, sometimes with another future superstar LL Cool J, and recorded guest vocals on Jaz-O and Big Daddy Kane's albums. Jay-Z released his first official single and music video in 1994 titled "I Can't Get Wit That." He then created Roc-a-Fella Records along with friends Damon Dash and Kareem "Biggs" Burke, a risky yet inspired move for an up-and-coming artist.
Jay-Z released his debut album, Reasonable Doubt in 1996, which barely missed the Top 20 on the Billboard 200 chart. However, the single "Ain't No Nigga," featuring female rapper Foxy Brown, received heavy airplay in his hip-hop loving hometown. Reasonable Doubt yielded several more successful singles, including "Dead Presidents" and the Mary J. Blige duet "Can't Knock the Hustle." A year later, Jay-Z released the follow-up, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. The rapper avoided the sophomore curse by watching it sell more copies than its freshman predecessor. The album featured collaborations with hit-making producers Puff Daddy and Teddy Riley, and prepped the once-underground rapper to test more mainstream waters. He finally became a household name, crossing over to pop radio with the LP Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life (1998) along with the help of the catchy hooks and samples in the singles "Can I Get A." and "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)." In 1999, Vol. 2 earned the rapper his first Grammy for Best Rap Album.
Having proven his success as a recording artist, Jay-Z used his ever-increasing influence in the music industry by working with undiscovered yet talented producers the Neptunes and Kanye West on the album Vol. 3: Life and Times of S. Carter (1999). The Neptunes launched the career of Pharrell Williams shortly after, while West went on to become one of the most successful and provocative rappers in history. West was also a prominent producer on Jay-Z's sixth studio album, The Blueprint, which was unfortunately released on Sept. 11, 2001. Even though its release coincided with the tragic terrorist attacks, The Blueprint went on to sell over three million copies and was considered an instant classic by music critics. However, not everyone was a Jay-Z fan, including fellow rapper Nas who had an ongoing feud with him. Both artists released "diss tracks," which referenced their mutual loathing. His 2002 single "03 Bonnie & Clyde" featured vocals from R&B/pop singer Beyoncé Knowles, whom Jay-Z began dating around the same time. They frequently collaborated on her records, including the hits "Crazy in Love" (2003) and "Déjà Vu" (2006). However like many famous duos, the couple kept their personal relationship far away from the media spotlight in order to focus on their individual and collective bodies of work. On April 4, 2008, Jay-Z and Beyoncé finally tied the knot in New York City and instantly became the music world's hottest power couple, officially.
In 2003, following the release of The Black Album, Jay-Z made one of his more shocking moves when he announced that he would no longer record another album. His retirement allowed the rapper to assume the role of president at Def Jam Records, which was struggling at the time and needed someone as visionary as Jay-Z to get it back on track. His new position made Jay-Z one of very few African-American executives at a major record label. Among the artists he discovered as Def Jam president was a Barbados-born singer named Rihanna, who went on to top the charts with the singles "Umbrella" (2007) and "Disturbia" (2008). Jay-Z also established himself as an entrepreneur, creating along with longtime friend Damon Dash, the fashion line Rocawear; opened the upscale 40/40 Club in New York; and became part owner of professional basketball team the New Jersey Nets. He also made lucrative investments in real estate, cosmetics, fine art and musical theater. Forbes magazine honored Jay-Z's entrepreneurial accomplishments by placing him on the cover of its September 2010 "Forbes 400 Summit" issue next to billionaire Warren Buffett.
In 2005, Jay-Z came out of retirement with a headlining performance in New York radio station Power 105.1's annual Powerhouse concert. The rapper also ended his longtime feud when Nas surprised the audience and joined him onstage for a mash-up performance of Jay-Z's "Dead Presidents" and Nas' "The World is Yours" (1994). His comeback album Kingdom Come was released in 2006, featuring collaborations with West and Coldplay vocalist Chris Martin. Jay-Z became the first hip-hop artist to headline the 2008 Glastonbury Festival in England, the largest open-air music and arts festival of its kind. Because it was prominently known as a rock festival, the announcement of a rapper as headliner incited criticism and slow ticket sales. Noel Gallagher from the Brit-pop band Oasis even commented it was wrong to have hip-hop at Glastonbury. Tickets to the festival eventually sold out, while Jay-Z delivered a groundbreaking performance that proved rap music deserved a place at Glastonbury, opening his set with a cover of Oasis' 1995 landmark hit, "Wonderwall."
In 2009, Jay-Z surpassed Elvis Presley's record when he released The Blueprint 3 - his 11th album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. The third single released, "Empire State of Mind," was Jay-Z's poignant ode to New York City and featured a catchy, operatic chorus sung by Alicia Keys. The track peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for five consecutive weeks, while critics compared its impact to Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" (1980) and Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind" (1976). In 2010, Jay-Z released his first book, Decoded, a narrative of the rapper's most famous lyrics as well as an in-depth look at his illustrious career. He also found time to co-headline along with Motown rapper Eminem - the only artist to challenge him in their respective fields - a massive stadium concert in both Eminem's Detroit and Jay-Z's NYC. It was a phenomenal success and a positive message of brotherhood to send to the sometimes less than harmonious rap music industry and its players. A second collaboration, this time with artist and producer Kanye West, resulted in the mega-selling album Watch the Throne (2011), which received generally positive reviews despite some critical grousing that it seemed like neither participant was bringing his A game to the project. Two days after the birth of his first child, Blue Ivy Carter, on January 7, 2012, Jay-Z released a stand-alone single, "Glory," that sampled his newborn daughter's cries. While simultaneously pursuing a new career as a sports agent (whose high-profile clients included baseball player Robinson Cano), Jay-Z released his twelfth solo album, Magna Carta...Holy Grail, on July 4, 2013.
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