Best known to the world by his professional name, rapper and music producer Jay-Z was born as Shawn Corey Carter on December 4th, 1969, in Brooklyn, New York City. Jay-Z’s stage name originated from a combination of his childhood nickname, Jazzy, and his mentor’s name, rapper Jaz-O. His interest in music started when his mother gifted him a boombox for his birthday, and he later began to write lyrics and do freestyle. Although he had already been performing by the late 1980s, Jay-Z’s music career didn’t take off until the mid-1990s. In 1996, after the release of his first single, “In My Lifetime,” the rapper made his first album thanks to the newly-formed independent label Roc-A-Fella Records (which he helped to co-found). Reasonable Doubt debuted in charts to positive reviews and high sales, eventually earning platinum status and propelling Jay-Z to fame.
Jay-Z’s second album came out in 1997, titled In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, and outperformed its predecessor in sales. The record was quickly followed by three other successful albums: Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life (1998), which became Jay-Z’s best selling album and won him the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album, Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter (1999) and The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (2000). In 2001, he released The Blueprint, to critical and commercial acclaim. Another album in the series, The Blueprint²: The Gift & The Curse (this time a double-album) came out in 2002. That same year, Jay-Z released his first collaborative studio album, The Best of Both Worlds, together with singer R. Kelly. The Black Album, Jay-Z’s eighth studio album, sold more than 3 million copies in the U.S. when it premiered in 2003. He also held a “retirement party” concert in Madison Square Garden, NYC. The show became the focus of his documentary film about his life, Fade to Black. In 2004, Jay-Z released his second collaborative record with R. Kelly, Unfinished Business.
In 2004, Jay-Z became the president of record label Def Jam Records and also took full control of Roc-A-Fella Records, which had also incorporated a film division. In 2006, he released his comeback album, Kingdom Come, which became one of the artist’s best-selling albums, followed-up by American Gangster in 2007. Jay-Z headlined several European festivals in 2008, most notably Glastonbury Festival in the UK, as well as the O2 Wireless Festival in London, and other events in Norway and Denmark. He later announced the debut of a new album, The Blueprint 3, which came out in 2009. That same year Jay-Z left Def Jam and signed a multi-million contract with entertainment company Live Nation, under which he would later form his own record label, Roc Nation.
In 2011, Jay-Z released with fellow rapper and longtime friend Kanye West the collaborative album Watch the Throne to positive reviews and record-breaking sales. His twelfth studio album, titled Magna Carta Holy Grail, came out in 2013 and earned him nine nominations at the 2014 Grammy Awards. Throughout his career, Jay-Z has either collaborated, produced or written songs for other artists in the industry, such as Rihanna, Drake, Justin Timberlake, U2, Coldplay, Alicia Keys and many more. He has also contributed to his wife Beyoncé’s solo career, being featured on the song “Drunk in Love,” which ended up winning a Grammy Award in 2016.
In 2017, Jay-Z premiered 4:44, through Roc Nation and Universal Music Group, and a year later presented Everything Is Love, in collaboration with Beyoncé. The latter went on to win the Grammy for Best Urban Contemporary Album in 2019. In 2021, Jay-Z was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Aside from his outstanding music career, Jay-Z has incurred in other business ventures and amassed an impressive investment portfolio, having owned a clothing brand, a luxury sports bar chain, an alcoholic beverage brand, a Norwegian tech company, U.S. sports teams, and online lifestyle magazines. Jay-Z is considered one of the best-selling and most successful music artists across the globe, holding the record for the most number-one albums by a solo artist on the Billboard 200 and one the most Grammy Award-winning artists as well.