Shawn Corey Carter (born December 4, 1969), better known by his stage name Jay-Z, is an American rapper and businessman. He is one of the most financially successful hip hop artists and entrepreneurs in America, having had a net worth of over $500 million in 2009, He has sold 40 million albums worldwide while receiving ten Grammy Awards for his musical work. He is considered by many to be one of the greatest MCs of all-time.
Jay-Z co-owns The 40/40 Club, is part-owner of the NBA's New Jersey Nets and is also the creator of the clothing line Rocawear. He is the former CEO of Def Jam Recordings, one of the three founders of Roc-A-Fella Records and recently, the founder of his new venture Roc Nation. As an artist he holds the record for most number one albums by a solo artist on the Billboard 200. Jay-Z also has had 4 number ones on the Billboard Hot 100, one as lead artist. ("Heartbreaker" with Mariah Carey, "Crazy in Love" with Beyonce, "Umbrella" with Rihanna and "Empire State of Mind" featuring Alicia Keys.)
Along with his financial and musical success, Jay-Z is known for quarrelling with other artists in the rap industry, the most famous feud being between him and fellow New York rapper Nas, which was eventually settled in 2005. He married American R&B star Beyoncé Knowles on April 4, 2008. On December 11th, 2009 Jay Z was ranked as the 10th best overall artist of 2000-2009 decade by Billboard Magazine. (Ranking as the 5th top solo male artist and as the 4th top rapper behind Eminem, Nelly, and 50 Cent).
Originally from Marcy Houses housing project in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City, Jay-Z was abandoned by his father and at 12 years old, he shot his brother in the shoulder for stealing his jewelry. Jay-Z attended Eli Whitney High School in Brooklyn, along with rapper AZ, until it was closed down. After that he attended George Westinghouse Information Technology High School in Downtown Brooklyn, which fellow rappers The Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes also attended, 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.
According to his mother, Gloria Carter, a young Jay-Z 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 stage name, "Jay-Z". The moniker is also an homage to his musical mentor, Jaz-O, as well as to the J/Z subway lines that have a stop at Marcy Avenue in Brooklyn.
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 and won several battles with rapper LL Cool J in the early 90's as part of a plan to get a sought-after record deal. 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, though Kane explains that he didn’t fill the traditional hype man role, instead Jay-Z “basically made 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”. He 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 "I Can't Get With That", for which he released a music video.
Royce da 5'9" and Fredro Starr of Onyx both describe Jay-Z’s emphasis on flow in the book How to Rap - Fredro says that Jay-Z is “a master of the flow—he can flow fast, he can flow slow”. The book describes how Jay-Z uses ‘rests’ to provide structure to a verse and how he uses ‘partial linking’ to add more rhymes to a verse. Jay-Z's early style is described by Vibe magazine as "a distinctly Das EFX-type, stiggety style" on his 12" single "Can't Get With That", referring to the fast rhythms and vocal delivery of the group Das EFX.
He is also known to write lyrics in his head, as described by Pusha T of Clipse in How to Rap, a style popular with many MCs such as Notorious B.I.G., Everlast, Bobby Creekwater and Guerilla Black. Shock G of Digital Underground describes Jay-Z’s performance style, saying he “rarely breaks a sweat, and instead uses smoothness and clever wordplay to keep the audience interested and entertained”.