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JAY Z

Artist profile

Shawn Corey Carter a.k.a. Jay Z

Born: December 4, 1969 in Brooklyn, New York City, New York, U.S.

Years active: 1989 - present

“Can't knock the hustle”

Born Shawn Corey Carter in New York City on December 4, 1969, Jay-Z grew up in Brooklyn’s drug-infested Marcy Projects. He used rap as an escape, appearing for the first time on Yo! MTV Raps in 1989. After selling millions of records with his own Roc-a-Fella label, Jay-Z created his own clothing line. He wed popular singer and actress Beyoncé in 2008.

Rapper Jay-Z was born Shawn Corey Carter on December 4, 1969, in Brooklyn, New York. “He was the last of my four children,” Jay-Z’s mother, Gloria Carter, later recalled, “the only one who didn’t give me any pain when I gave birth to him, and that’s how I knew he was a special child.” Jay-Z’s father, Adnes Reeves, left the family when Jay Z was only 11 years old. The young rapper was raised by his mother in Brooklyn’s drug-infested Marcy Projects.

Jay Z 1987

Jay Z 1987

During a rough adolescence, detailed in many of his autobiographical songs, Shawn Carter dealt drugs and flirted with gun violence. He attended Eli Whitney High School in Brooklyn, where he was a classmate of the soon-to-be-martyred rap legend Notorious B.I.G. As Jay-Z later remembered his childhood in one of his songs (“December 4th”): “I went to school, got good grades, could behave when I wanted/ But I had demons deep inside that would raise when confronted.”

Carter turned to rap at a young age as an escape from the drugs, violence and poverty that surrounded him in the Marcy Projects. In 1989, he joined the rapper Jaz-O — an older performer who served as a kind of mentor—to record a song called “The Originators,” which won the pair an appearance on an episode of Yo! MTV Raps. It was at this point that Shawn Carter embraced the nickname Jay-Z, which was simultaneously an homage to Jaz-O, a play on Carter’s childhood nickname of “Jazzy” and a reference to the J/Z subway station near his Brooklyn home.

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But even though he had a stage name, Jay-Z remained relatively anonymous until he and two friends, Damon Dash and Kareem Burke, founded their own record label, Roc-a-Fella Records, in 1996. In June of that year, Jay-Z released his debut album, Reasonable Doubt. Although the record only reached No. 23 on the Billboard charts, it is now considered a classic Hip Hop album, featuring songs such as “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” featuring Mary J. Blige, and “Brooklyn’s Finest,” a collaboration with Notorious B.I.G. Reasonable Doubt established Jay-Z as an emerging star in Hip Hop.

Two years later, Jay-Z achieved even broader success with the 1998 album Vol. 2 … Hard Knock Life. The title track, which famously sampled its chorus from the Broadway musical Annie, became Jay-Z’s most popular single to date and won him his first Grammy nomination. “Hard Knock Life” marked the beginning of a fruitful period in which Jay-Z would become the biggest name in Hip Hop.

Over the span of those years, the rapper released a slew of No. 1 albums and hit singles. His most popular songs from this period include “Can I Get A …,” “Big Pimpin’,” “I Just Wanna Love U,” “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” and “03 Bonnie & Clyde,” a duet with future bride Beyoncé Knowles. Jay-Z’s most acclaimed album of this period was The Blueprint (2001), which would later land on many music critics’ lists of the best albums of the decade.

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In 2003, Jay-Z shocked the Hip Hop world by releasing The Black Album and announcing that it would be his last solo record before retirement. Asked to explain his sudden exit from rap, Jay-Z said that he once derived inspiration from trying to outshine other great MCs, but he had simply gotten bored due to a lack of competition. “The game ain’t hot,” he said. “I love when someone makes a hot album and then you’ve got to make a hot album. I love that. But it ain’t hot.”

During his hiatus from rapping, Jay-Z turned his attention to the business side of music, becoming president of Def Jam Recordings. As president of Def Jam, Jay-Z signed such popular acts as Rihanna, Ne-Yo and Young Jeezy and helped effect Kanye West’s transition from producer to bestselling recording artist. But his reign at the venerable Hip Hop label wasn’t all smooth sailing; Jay-Z resigned as Def Jam’s president in 2007, complaining about the company’s resistance to change from ineffectual business models. “You have record executives who’ve been sitting in their office for 20 years because of one act,” he lamented.

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Jay-Z’s other ongoing business ventures include the popular urban clothing line Rocawear and Roc-a-Fella films. He also owns the 40/40 Club, an upscale sports bar with locations in New York and Atlantic City, and is a part owner of the Brooklyn Nets basketball franchise, which moved to a new home, the Barclays Center, in 2012. As Jay-Z once rapped about his business empire, “I’m not a businessman/ I’m a business, man.”

In 2006, Jay-Z ended his retirement from making music, releasing the new album Kingdom Come. He soon released two more albums: American Gangster in 2007 and Blueprint 3 in 2010. This trio of later albums marked a significant departure from Jay-Z’s earlier sound, incorporating stronger rock and soul influences in their production and offering lyrics tackling such mature subjects as the response to Hurricane Katrina, Barack Obama’s 2008 election and the perils of fame and fortune. Jay-Z has said he’s trying to adapt his music to befit his own middle age. “There’s not a lot of people who have come of age in rap because it’s only 30 years old,” he says. “As more people come of age, hopefully the topics get broader and then the audience will stay around longer.”

Hip Hop artist Jay Z performs at The Staples Center on December 9, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.

Hip Hop artist Jay Z performs at The Staples Center on December 9, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.

In 2008, Jay-Z signed a $150 million contract with the concert promotion company Live Nation. This super deal created a joint venture called Roc Nation, an entertainment company that handles nearly all aspects of its artists’ careers. In addition to Jay-Z himself, Roc Nation manages Shakira, Kanye West, Timbaland and Rianna, among many others.

More recently, Jay-Z proved that he had both commercial and critical staying power. He teamed up with another famous member of rap royalty, Kanye West, for 2011’s Watch the Throne. The album proved to be a triple hit, topping the rap, R&B and pop charts that August. The song “Otis,” which samples the late R&B singer Otis Redding, snagged several Grammy Award nominations and the recording was also nominated for Best Rap Album.

Two years after the release of a collaboration album with West, both rappers dropped solo albums within weeks of the other’s release date. West’s album, Yeezus (2013), was critically lauded for its innovation, while his mentor Jay-Z’s album gained less than stellar reviews. The rappers 12th studio album, Magna Carta Holy Grail (2013), was seen as decent but failed to live up to the Hip Hop star’s larger-than-life reputation and his unhumbly titled album.

blame-sco

Very protective of his private life, Jay-Z did not publicly discuss his relationship with longtime girlfriend, popular singer and actress Beyoncé, for years. The couple even managed to keep the press away from their small wedding, which was held on April 4, 2008, in New York City. Only about 40 people attended the celebration at Jay-Z’s penthouse apartment, including actress Gwyneth Paltrow and former Destiny’s Child members Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams.

Jay-Z and Beyoncé welcomed their first child, a daughter named Blue Ivy Carter, on January 7, 2012.

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Official site: Jay Z

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Discography

Movies

Fade to Black

Fade to Black

An intimate look at hip-hop artist Shawn Carter, Jay-Z, revealing the multiple Grammy Award winning artist as never before, from his backgro...

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Jay-Z and Linkin Park - Collision Course

Jay-Z and Linkin Park - Collision Course

The Once-in-a-Lifetime performance, captured live July 18th, 2004 at the Roxy Theater in West Hollywood, CA. In this revealing documentary, ...

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Backstage

Backstage

If you ever wanted to know what really goes on backstage, this is the definitive inside look - uncut and uncensored. Complete with on-stage ...

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Made in America

Made in America

Hip-hop artist Jay-Z organizes the "Budweiser Made In America" music festival....

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Lemonade

Lemonade

The second "visual album" (a collection of short films) by Beyoncé, this time around she takes a piercing look at racial issues and feminis...

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Life Is But a Dream

Life Is But a Dream

Life Is But a Dream is a HBO documentary about the life of US singer Beyoncé Knowles during the years 2011 and 2012 and on the recording of...

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RD20

RD20

The documentary tracks the making of Reasonable Doubt, Hova's rise to stardom, and the legacy of the iconic album. Directed by Scheme Engine...

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Mariah Carey: #1's

Mariah Carey: #1's

1's is Mariah Carey's sixth DVD/video release. It contains 14 of Mariah' s #1 hits such as Heartbreaker, My All, Honey, Always Be My Baby, O...

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Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé

Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé

This intimate, in-depth look at Beyoncé's celebrated 2018 Coachella performance reveals the emotional road from creative concept to cultura...

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The Beyoncé Experience Live

The Beyoncé Experience Live

"The Beyoncé Experience Live" is a live DVD by American R&B singer Beyoncé Knowles that was released in the US on November 16, 2007. It wa...

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Rihanna 777 Documentary

Rihanna 777 Documentary

Gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at Rihanna's unprecedented globetrotting concert tour that hit seven countries in seven days with sev...

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Family Feud

Family Feud

The Ava DuVernay-directed “Family Feud” weaves a futuristic saga beginning in the year 2444 and working backward to 2050 when a group of...

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Beyoncé: I Am... World Tour

Beyoncé: I Am... World Tour

108 shows, 78 cities, 32 countries, 6 continents, 1.1 million fans. Beyoncé’s I Am... World Tour captures concert footage from numerous s...

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On The Run Tour

On The Run Tour

Beyoncé and Jay Z perform live in Paris at Stade de France during their 2014 "On the Run Tour."...

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So So Def All-Star 20th Anniversary Concert

So So Def All-Star 20th Anniversary Concert

Jermaine Dupri's longtime friends, collaborators and So So Def Recordings' alumni celebrate the label's 20-year anniversary....

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Beyoncé: The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour

Beyoncé: The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour

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Kanye West: College Dropout - Video Anthology

Kanye West: College Dropout - Video Anthology

A collection of music videos and behind the scenes footage released to promote Kanye West's upcoming debut album, College Dropout. The compi...

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Notorious B.I.G.: Bigger Than Life

Notorious B.I.G.: Bigger Than Life

The greatest rapper to ever pick up a mic - with his velvety flow and unparalleled rhyme style he captivated everyone from Jay Z to Tupac. N...

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BEYONCÉ

BEYONCÉ

BEYONCÉ is the fifth studio album by American singer Beyoncé. It was released on December 13, 2013 through Parkwood Entertainment and Colu...

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Beyoncé: Year of 4

Beyoncé: Year of 4

"Beyoncé: Year of 4" documents the year-long personal and artistic journey that inspired Beyoncé's fourth solo album, 4....

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Biggie: The Life of Notorious B.I.G.

Biggie: The Life of Notorious B.I.G.

The first authorized biography of Christopher Wallace, allowing Christopher to narrate his own life story. Using archival footage and previo...

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Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives

Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives

Exploring the social impact of what The Source Magazine in 1998 voted, "The Best Hip Hop Radio Show Of All-Time." The documentary film is th...

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Money, Power, Respect: Hip Hop Billion Dollar Industry

Money, Power, Respect: Hip Hop Billion Dollar Industry

Who of the icons Jay-Z, Diddy, 50 Cent and Dr. Dre becomes the first dollar billionaire?...

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R. Kelly: The R. in R&B - The Video Collection

R. Kelly: The R. in R&B - The Video Collection

This DVD/CD combination package features all of R. Kelly's biggest music videos from the first 10 years of his career, and one of the most p...

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Beyoncé Presents: Making The Gift

Beyoncé Presents: Making The Gift

Beyoncé takes viewers on a journey through Africa with an hour-long documentary special, an intimate behind-the-scenes look at the making o...

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State Property

State Property

Frustrated with being broke, Beans decides that the only way to grasp the American Dream is to take it....

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Beef IV

Beef IV

Beef IV is the fourth installment of the Beef series. It is a documentary about Hip hop rivalries and beefs (arguments). It was released on ...

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B'Day Anthology Video Album

B'Day Anthology Video Album

B'Day Anthology Video Album is the first video album by American recording artist Beyoncé. It features thirteen music videos for songs from...

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Quincy

Quincy

An intimate look into the life of icon Quincy Jones. A unique force in music and popular culture for 70 years, Jones has transcended racial ...

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Black Is King

Black Is King

This visual album from Beyoncé reimagines the lessons of "The Lion King" (2019) for today’s young kings and queens in search of their own...

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Letter to the President

Letter to the President

Narrated By Snoop Dogg- Letter To the President is a feature documentary that showcases the close-knit ties between the Hip Hop Music commun...

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And You Don't Stop: 30 Years of Hip-Hop

And You Don't Stop: 30 Years of Hip-Hop

The film documents the development of hip hop culture since its inception in the 1970s. With interviews from various figures in the communit...

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Beef

Beef

A documentary on the evolution of MC battles from verbal one-upmanship to street warfare....

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The Concert for New York City

The Concert for New York City

The Concert for New York City took place on October 20, 2001 at Madison Square Garden. It was a celebration of the strength of New York and ...

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Music Videos That Defined the 00’s

Music Videos That Defined the 00’s

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Paper Soldiers

Paper Soldiers

Paper Soldiers follows an overeager burglar named Shawn (Kevin Hart) through the ups and downs of his short, stressful career....

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Out of Shadows

Out of Shadows

"Out of Shadows" lifts the mask on how the mainstream media and Hollywood manipulate and control the masses by spreading propaganda througho...

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Live 8

Live 8

On 2 July 2005 an estimated 3 billion people came together in the fight against extreme poverty. LIVE 8 - 10 concerts featuring over 1000 mu...

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The Story of O.J.

The Story of O.J.

The Mill worked with JAY-Z, Roc Nation and Director Mark Romanek to create the animated music video for ‘The Story of OJ’, a track off J...

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Paid in Full

Paid in Full

Ace is an impressionable young man working for a dry cleaning business. His friend, drug dealer Mitch goes to prison. In an unrelated incide...

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The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

An adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Long Island-set novel, where Midwesterner Nick Carraway is lured into the lavish world of his neighbo...

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Annie

Annie

Annie is a young, happy foster kid who's also tough enough to make her way on the streets of New York in 2014. Originally left by her parent...

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Top Five

Top Five

A comedian tries to make it as a serious actor when his reality-TV star fiancé talks him into broadcasting their wedding on her TV show....

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Made in America

Made in America

Hip-hop artist Jay-Z organizes the "Budweiser Made In America" music festival....

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Kanye West: College Dropout - Video Anthology

Kanye West: College Dropout - Video Anthology

A collection of music videos and behind the scenes footage released to promote Kanye West's upcoming debut album, College Dropout. The compi...

More info

RD20

RD20

The documentary tracks the making of Reasonable Doubt, Hova's rise to stardom, and the legacy of the iconic album. Directed by Scheme Engine...

More info

Free Angela and All Political Prisoners

Free Angela and All Political Prisoners

FREE ANGELA is a feature-length documentary about Angela Davis and the high stakes crime, political movement, and trial that catapults the 2...

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