Today, December 4, Bed-Stuy native Shawn Carter, bka Jay Z, turns 45.
He may have started out in the late 80s as a budding underground rapper out of Bed-Stuy’s Marcy Projects to become one of the greatest rappers of all time, but his days as where he is known simply as a recording artist are long gone.
Today Jay Z is a multi-millionaire investor. He’s the creator and owner of his own string of businesses, and he continues to build his wealth by reinvesting his profits across a wide swath of industries.
Check out The Brooklyn Reader’s photographic retrospective of the life and times of Shawn Carter.
“I’m not a Business Man. I’m a Business, Man.”—Jay Z
Having an interest in music from a very young age, Shawn Carter was known by the nickname “Jazzy” in his neighborhood. In 1988, he established himself as a respected rapper after recording “Hawaiian Sohpie” and a video for “The Originators” with Jaz-O, a more established rapper and his musical mentor, got him a record deal to help his career flourish. Eventually the name Jazzy morphed to Jay-Z, as an homage to Jaz-O.
In 1995, Jay-Z meets Damon Dash, who signs him to a record deal. Another associate Kareem Burke, helped finance the formation of Roc-A-Fella Records. “Reasonable Doubt” is released. The album goes gold and was ultimately hailed as a hip-hop classic. Roc-A-Fella begins negotiations with Def Jam.
Jay-Z’s world in entertainment is turned upside down when, in 1997, his friend and a fellow rapper the Notorious B.I.G. is murdered in Los Angeles. Def Jam and Roc-A-Fella agree to a joint venture, and “In My Lifetime, Vol.1” is released. The album does well commercially and signifies a move toward a pop audience.
In 1998, Jay-Z releases Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life, which sold more than 5 million copies. He also embarks on a 52-city tour of the same name. Roc-A-Fella Records branches into fashion with the launch of the urban fashion house Rocawear. In 1998, he released Vol. 3: Life and Times of S. Carter, which garners more critical acclaim then Vol. 2. In December Jay is on hand at New York nightclub when Lance “Un” Rivera is stabbed. He is charged with the stabbing but denies it.
On September 11, 2001, Jay-Z releases “The Blueprint,” the same morning of the terrorists attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He releases “The Black Album” in 2003, to much anticipation and fanfare, as he announced it would be his final album and that he was retiring from the music industry. The concert he plans as a good-bye sells out Madison Square Garden in less than five minutes. He retires from his career as an artist officially and opens the 40/40 Club in New York City, a high-end sports bar
In 2004, Jay-Z accepts an executive role as president of Def Jam Recordings. This position would later play a key role in sharpening his business and negotiation skills, as he begins to truly witness the industry and its major players. In 2005, Jay-Z becomes an investor in Carol’s Daughter, a line of beauty products, including products for hair, skin, and hands. That same year, he embarks on tour with R. Kelly, but the tour falls apart with R. Kelly eventually suing him for $75 million. The suit has not yet be resolved.
Jay-Z returns to recording music in 2006 with his comeback album “Kingdom Come.” It is also the year he falls out with former business partner Damon Dash. In 2007, he releases “American Gangster. Both albums hit number-one on Billboard charts. Barbara Walters names Jay-Z as one of the 10 Most Fascinating People of 2006 for his Water For Life project (a collaboration between the United States Organization, MTV, and Def Jam). That same year, Jay-Z sells the rights to the Rocawear brand to Iconix Brand Group, for $204 million. He retains his stake in the company and continues to oversee the marketing, licensing and product development.
In 2008, Jay-Z quietly marries American R&B singer Beyoncé. They kept a low profile while dating for several years prior, but it became a matter of public record on April 22, 2008, but Beyoncé did not publicly debut her $5 million Lorraine Schwartz-designed wedding ring until the Fashion Rocks concert on September 5, 2008 in New York City. Their bond has since gilded the power couple in the annals of hip hop royalty.
In 2009, Jay-Z releases “Blueprint III” completing the third part of his multi-platinum selling trilogy. That same year, Jay-Z was ranked as the tenth-most successful artist of the 2000s by Billboard as well as the fifth top solo male artist and fourth top rapper behind Eminem, Nelly, and 50 Cent. He was also ranked the 88th greatest artist of all time by Rolling Stone.
In August 2010, it’s revealed that Jay-Z and fellow hip hop artist Kanye West would be collaborating on a five-track EP entitled Watch the Throne, although later, the project became a full-length LP. The first single released for the project was “H•A•M”. That same year, he buys an ownership stake in the Nets NBA Franchise (1/5 of 1 percent).
Jay-Z and Beyonce have a daughter together on January 7, 2012. They name her Blue Ivy Carter.
July 4, 2013, Jay-Z announces his twelfth studio album, Magna Carta Holy Grail. It debuts at number one on the Billboard 200 and sells 528,000 copies in its first week, which bypasses its predicted debut in the range of 350,000 to 400,000. In December 2013, it’s announced that Jay-Z would received nine nominations at the 2014 Grammy Awards, more than any other artist to date.
Also in July 2013, he announces he’s leaving out the hyphen in his name and prefers to be known as “Jay Z.” It’s also the same year he dropps the smash hit duet with his wife Beyonce, “Drunk in Love.” Also, that same year, he drops the smash hit duet with his wife Beyonce, “Drunk in Love.”
Also in 2013, he announces he will be launching his own sports agency, Roc Nation Sports. New York Yankees’s second basemen Robinson Cano left his old agent to sign with the company. Also signed to Roc Nation are Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant and New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith. With plans to now become a sports agent Jay Z had to give up his small stake in the Nets, a portion of which he sold to basketball coach Jason Kidd. But, being the savvy business man he is, he shifted a large part of his stake over to the Brooklyn Nets arena, the Barclays Center.
2014 is also a monumental year for Jay Z (and is wife Beyonce)! From their sultry performance together of Drunk in Love at the Grammys, to Jay’s infamous elevator fight in May with Beyonce’s sister Solange, to the launch of the duo’s sold-out “On the Run Tour” in June, Jay Z’s personal and business lives have become what magazine dreams are made of.
Jay-Z: A Birthday Photo Timeline!
Today, Jay Z turns 45. He may have started out as a rapper out of Bed-Stuy’s Marcy Projects, but his days as where he is known simply as a recording artist are long gone. Today Jay Z is a multi-millionaire investor. He’s the creator and owner of his own string of businesses, and he continues to build his wealth by reinvesting his profits across a wide swath of industries. “I’m not a Business Man. I’m a Business, Man.”—Jay Z