Jay Z : The Greatest Rapper Alive

        Shawn Corey Carter (aka Jay Z) is an American rapper,songwriter, record executive, record producer, and entrepreneur from Brooklyn, New York. He was born December 4, 1969. He is one of the most influential figures in Hip Hop in the 1990’s and early 21st century. He is often cited as one of the greatest rappers of all time.  

        Jay Z was raised in the Marcy Houses, a housing project in Brooklyn. He was raised by his mother, Gloria Carter, after his dad abandoned him and his three siblings. Jay Z was always interested in music. When he was younger, he would wake up his younger siblings in the middle of the night by banging out drum patterns in the kitchen. His mom gifted him a boombox for his birthday that led him to writing and freestyling his own music.His childhood nickname Jazzy along with his mentor’s name Jay O inspired his later adopted stage name Jay Z. 

1995-1997: The Beginning

        Jay Z first became widely known to wide audiences on the posse cut of the song “Show and Prove” by Big Daddy Kane. He became known originally as Big Daddy Kane’s hype man as Kane would allow him to come onstage and freestyle in between wardrobe changes.  Jay Z appeared on various songs but did not release his first single entitled “In my Lifetime” until 1995.

        No major record label would sign Jay Z so he sold CD’s out of his car until he decided to create his own independent record label with Dame Dash (aka “Dame”) and Kareem Burke (aka “Briggs”). They created Roc-A-Fella records in 1995. In 1996, Jay Z released his debut album Reasonable Doubt that features beats by producers such as DJ Premier and Super DJ Clark and a feature by The Notorious B.I.G.  The album reached number 23 on the Billboard 200, and was favored by many critics. Later in time the album would be featured in Rolling stone’s greatest albums of all time and reach platinum status. 

        In 1997, Jay Z released his follow up album, In My Lifetime Vol. 1 that was produced by Sean Combs (aka “Puff Daddy”). The album outsold his previous album. The album tells the story of his difficult upbringing. While writing the album Jay Z was going through a difficult time as he was grieving over the death of his close friend The Notorious B.I.G. 

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1998 - 2002: Mainstream Success

        In 1998, Jay Z released his third album Vol. 2…. Hard Knock Life. This album produced his biggest hit at the time, “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem). This album focused on flow and wordplay but still had beats by popular producers of the time. Vol. 2 soon became Jay Z’s most commercially successful album. It went 5x certified platform and has sold over five million copies. Jay Z went on to win a Grammy for this album but did not attend the ceremony as he was boycotting the Grammys over not nominating DMX for an award. 

        Jay Z collaborated with Mariah Carey on her song “HeartBreaker”, in 1999. The song became the first chart topper for Jay Z as it spent two weeks on top of the Billboard 100. Later that year, he released his third album, Vol. 3… Life and times of S Carter. The biggest hit from this album was “Big Pimpin” which featured UGK. The album was successful and sold over three million copies.

        In 2000, Jay Z released Dynasty: Roc La Familia, which was originally supposed to be a compilation album with artists from Roc – A – Fella records. However, it turned into a Jay Z album. This album did help introduce newcomer producers including Just Blaze, Kanye West and Bink. Dynasty: Roc La Familia sold over two million copies. In this album, Jay Z utilizes a more soulful sound. 

        Hours before the 9/11 attacks, Jay Z released his sixth album entitled The BluePrint. This album received a coveted five mic review from The Source, which is a hip hop magazine. The BluePrint  debuted at number one on The Billboard 200 and became certified 2x platinum. Popular songs on the album include “Izzo(H.O.V.A)”, “Girls,Girls,Girls” and “Song Cry”. The album’s success was overshadowed by the tragic events of 9/11. The BluePrint was selected by The Library of Congress for preservation in The National Recording Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. 

         In 2002, Jay Z released his seventh album entitled The Blueprint2: The Gift & The Curse which is a double album.The album debuted at number one and sold over three million copies in the United States. The album produced two massive hits, “03 Bonnie and Clyde” which features Beyonce and “Excuse Me Miss”. 

2003 - 2005: The Black Album and Initial Retirement

        At the opening of the 40/40 club, Jay Z announced his eighth studio album The Black Album. He worked with several producers including Kanye West, Timbaland, Eminem, The Neptunes and Just Blaze. Notable songs include “What More Can I Say”, “Change Clothes” and “99 Problems”. The Black Album sold over three million copies in the United States. During the same year he released a collaborative studio album with R.Kelly entitled The Best of Both Worlds. 

         In November of 2003, Jay Z hosted a Charity concert titled Retirement concert. The Concert was held at Madison Square Garden and featured Acts such as Missy Elliot, Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Ghostface Killah and many more. The concert also featured appearances from Tupac and Notorious B.I.G mom’s and Voletta Wallace. This concert was supposed to be Jay Z’s retirement from studio albums. Despite this he participated in various side projects. He released a greatest hits album during this retirement period as well as a tour with R.Kelly for their second collaboration album entitled Unfinished Business. 

         In 2004, Jay Z became president of Def Jam Records and took control of both Roc-A-Fella records. He broke apart from his former partners due to creative differences. 

2005 - 2010: The Comback


         On November 21, 2006, Jay Z released his comeback office album, Kingdom Come. Jay Z’s comeback single “Show Me What You Got” was leaked on the internet in October. This led to an FBI investigation on the leak. Entertainment Weekly stated that the album was “the highest single-week total in Jay’s decade-long career”. The album sold over 680,00 copies in the first week. 

          Jay Z released his tenth studio album entitled American Gangsters. The album was inspired by Scott Ridley’s film of the same name. Jay Z decided to create a concept album that depicts the experiences of street hustlers. The album includes Jay Z’s experiences growing up on the streets and also calls out many politicians of the 1980’s. On January 1, 2008, Jay Z resigned as President from Def Jam Records. He then announced in 2009, that he would be splitting ways with Def Jam as he had signed a multi million dollar deal with Live Nation. Roc Nation would now become a record company, a talent/management company and a music publishing company. 

        Jay Z also got the pleasure of being the first major hip hop artist to headline the 2008 Glastonbury Festival. This received some criticism, however, his performance managed to shut up critics and was deemed as a success. Throughout the year, Jay Z performed at many music festivals around the war. It was announced in August 2008, that Jay Z would be releasing her ninth studio album entitled The BluePrint 3. He released the album on September 8, 2009. The album peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 and broke Elvis Pressley’s previous record which made him the current solo record holder.  In October, Jay Z kicked off The BluePrint 3 tour which helped support his album in North America.

2012 - Now: Present Day Jay Z

        In 2013, Jay’s 12th studio album was one of the most anticipated albums of the year. His 12th studio album entitled Magna Carter Holy Grail. It was released on July 4, 2013 and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 selling over 500,00 copies in the first week. He received nine nominations for the album at the 2014 Grammy awards. He performed at the award show with his wife Beyoncé, with their song entitled “Drunk in Love.  

        In 2017, Jay Z released his 13th studio album entitled 4:44. This album marked the first Sprint-Tidal partnership release. Customers of Tidal and Sprint were able to access the album for free five days earlier than its initial release. It was officially released on July 2nd, 2017. Jay Z talks about ingoing politics in hip hop, his family life and relationships and stereotypes and racism in society. The album received numerous Grammy award nominations and was praised by critics alike. 

         Finally, in 2018, while on the On The Run II tour with his wife Beyoncé, they released a collaborative album together entitled Everything is Love. The album features a popular hit named “ApeShit” that reciebed numeorus awards. The music video for “ApeShit” was filmed at The Louvre. 

Family Life

       Jay Z married Beyoncé on April 4, 2008 after dating for about six years. They have three children together named Blue Ivy, Rumi and Sir.  The couple is listed as Time 100’s most powerful couples. They have been ranked as one of Hollywood’s top-earning couple’s. They keep their relationship fairly private, however, both talked about a rocky time in their relationship through music. It was rumored that Jay Z cheated on Beyonce. Neither confirmed or denied the rumors but many have inferred that Beyonce’s 2016 album Lemonade is about her emotional journey after being cheated on. 


         In 2003, with collaboration with his mom, Jay Z created the Shawn Carter foundation. The foundation helps support students with socio economic issues through college. It provides scholarships and grants. In 2006, the foundation partnered with MTV to create a documentary about the global water shortage. Jay Z also donated over 1 million dollars to victims of Hurricane Katrina. The Foundation has also bailed out protestors during activism against police brutality. 


Reasonable Doubt (1996)

In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997)

Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life (1998)

Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter (1999)

The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (2000)

The Blueprint (2001)

The Blueprint2: The Gift & the Curse (2002)

The Black Album (2003)

Kingdom Come (2006)

American Gangster (2007)

The Blueprint 3 (2009)

Magna Carta Holy Grail (2013)

4:44 (2017)


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Noble, Demetrius. African American Review, vol. 46, no. 1, 2013, pp. 191–194. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/23783631. Accessed 4 Mar. 2021.

Kenton Rambsy. “Jay Z’s American Gangster.” Black Camera, vol. 8, no. 2, 2017, pp. 255–266. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.2979/blackcamera.8.2.15. Accessed 4 Mar. 2021.

Hill, Marc Lamot. “Using Jay-Z to Reflect on Post-9/11 Race Relations.” The English Journal, vol. 96, no. 2, 2006, pp. 23–27. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/30047123. Accessed 4 Mar. 2021.

“Hip-hop.” Britannica Academic, Encyclopædia Britannica, 27 Jul. 2020. academic-eb-com.ezproxy.auctr.edu/levels/collegiate/article/hip-hop/117537#288177.toc. Accessed 3 Mar. 2021.

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