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Jay-Z

Jay-Z

1970—

Rap artist

Jay-Z is all too familiar with the hard knock life. In his hit single "Hard Knock Life," Jay-Z samples the musical Annie's signature song of the same name. "These kids sing about the hard knock life, things everyone in the ghetto feels coming up," Jay-Z was quoted in People as saying of the orphans in Annie. "That's the ghetto anthem." The rap star grew up in a single-parent household in the projects of Brooklyn, New York. Known for his honesty, Jay-Z has admitted in both his autobiographical lyrics and interviews that he sold drugs as a teenager. For Jay-Z, rap was a way out of the hard knock life. First, the money that came with a successful rap career would take him out of the Brooklyn projects. Second, rap music was a means to express his feelings about the knocks and blows he had to absorb. The climb out of the tough life was not easy, however, and Jay-Z encountered more hard knocks along the way.

Jay-Z was born Shawn Corey Carter on December 4, 1970, in Brooklyn, New York, the youngest of four children. He grew up in the well-known Marcy Projects, where the J and Z subway trains run. His mother, Gloria Carter, worked as a clerk in an investment company. Jay-Z's father left when he was twelve years old. "To me, that was basically the end of our relationship," Jay-Z told Vibe. "That was when the hurt and then the healing began for me, from that day right there." In his teens, Jay-Z was a cocaine dealer before he joined the world of rap.

When Jay-Z was first starting out in the rap world, he was introduced to Darien Dash, who by the time he was age nineteen had already gotten record deals for two acts. Dash soon became Jay-Z's manager, and Dash's childhood friend Kareem "Biggs" Burke was hired as Jay-Z's road manager. For two years the three worked unsuccessfully to obtain a record deal. Undeterred, the trio decided to form their own record company, Roc-A-Fella Records, in which they would all serve as partners. Jay-Z's role was that of marquee artist, while Dash ran the company's day-to-day operations and Burke served as "a barometer of the streets." After Roc-A-Fella secured a distribution deal with Priority Records, Jay-Z was ready to release his first record, Reasonable Doubt.

Controversial Hit Single

Jay-Z rose to fame with his 1996 gold-certified single "Ain't No N-G-A (Like the One I Got)," a duet with Foxy Brown. The controversy started immediately. The single's title was not the language that even the most daring disc jockeys wanted to play. According to Janine McAdams in Billboard in June of 1996, "For now, ‘Ain't No N-G-A’ has radio production rooms working overtime. None of the stations contacted for this story advocate the use of the n-word over the air, but their solutions are varied: Some edit the word out; others substitute ‘brother’ or ‘player.’" Still, radio stations pointed out that however reluctant they were to broadcast that and other offensive words, the public knew when it was cut out anyway. In some cases, the change altered the content enough to diminish its intended impact and appeal.

Despite the hardcore quality of his first album, as Shawnee Smith in Billboard noted in November of 1999, it was Jay-Z who also began to transform the hip-hop scene from its hardcore "gangsta rap" to something more refined—evoking images of "Armani suits, alligator boots, Rolex watches, expensive cars, broads and Cristel." At the end of 1996, Havelock Nelson reflected on the year in rap for Billboard. Jay-Z, Nelson said, "masterfully reinvented himself after receiving battle scars from his previous rhyme life."

In addition to making music, Jay-Z was also interested in the corporate side of the business. Since 1994, Jay-Z had been producing records for other artists as chief of operations for the Roc-A-Fella label. The same head for money that had served him in the drug business translated well into the music industry. He talked about his future at that time: "Although my album has already gone gold, it will be my last one. From this point, it's all about the business." Jay-Z did not, however, retire from rap. Jay-Z told Vibe that he realized his music had a powerful effect on his fans. "There were cats coming up to me like, ‘You must have been looking in my window or following my life.’… It was emotional. Like big, rough hoodlum, hardrock, three-time jail bidders with scars and gold teeth just breaking down. It was something to look at, like, I must be going somewhere people been wanting someone to go for a while." So he returned to rap in 1997, with the album, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. In 1998 his best-selling Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life won him a Grammy Award for best rap album.

Hard Knocks Tour

In 1999 Jay-Z headlined the Hard Knock Life Tour, which also featured DMX, Beanie Sigel, and others. Jay-Z used his stature as a hit-producing rap star to ensure that the rappers he wanted would be included on the tour. At the outset, there were fears that violence would break out on the tour. The tour concluded without incident, however, and was a resounding success.

At a Glance …

Born Shawn Corey Carter on December 4, 1970, in Brooklyn, NY; son of Gloria Carter and Adnis Reeves; married Beyoncé Knowles (a singer), 2008.

Career: Rap singer, performing pop-rap, crossover rap, hardcore rap, East Coast rap, urban, and hip-hop for Def Jam, Priority, Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam, and BMG International labels and for Live Nation concert promoters; recorded debut single, 1995; recorded debut album, 1996; cofounder and chief of operations for Roc-A-Fella record label, beginning early 1990s; opened the 40/40 club in New York City, 2003; executive produced and appeared in feature film Fade to Black, 2004; president of Universal Music Group's Def Jam Recordings label, 2004-07; signed deal with Live Nation, 2008.

Awards: Grammy Award, best rap album, 1998, for Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life; MTV Video Music Award, best rap video, 1999, for "Can I Get A …"; Soul Train Music Award's Sammy Davis Jr. Award for Entertainer of the Year, 2001; BET Award, 2001, for best male hip-hop artist; Source Award, 2001, for best hip-hop artist, solo; Soul Train Award, album of the year, 2002, for The Blueprint; Grammy Awards, best R&B song and best rap/sung collaboration (both with Beyoncé Knowles), both 2003, for "Crazy in Love"; ASCAP Golden Note Award, 2004; American Music Award, 2004, for favorite male rap/hip-hop artist; Grammy Award, best rap solo performance, 2005, for "99 Problems"; GQ man of the year, 2005; Grammy Award, best rap/sung collaboration (with Linkin Park), 2006, for "Numb/Encore,"; Grammy Award, best rap/sung collaboration (with Rihanna), 2008, for "Umbrella."

Addresses: Record/Touring company—Live Nation, 9348 Civic Center Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210.

A documentary crew joined the tour, filming the rappers as they performed, hung out backstage, and traveled in tour buses. The resulting film, Backstage, was released in September of 2000. Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle said of the film that it "makes no attempt to guide hip-hop novices. It just tosses the viewer into this musical experience, which will seem vital to some and depressing and repetitious to others."

In 1999 Jay-Z was preparing to release his fourth album. Steve Jones wrote in the December 27, 1999, issue of USA Today that he noticed in a session he sat in on with Jay-Z and rapper Beanie Sigel that Jay-Z never writes down a lyric. "I don't write songs," Jay-Z explained. "I just sit there and listen to the track, and I come up with the words. It's a gift. A gift from God." In the article Jay-Z also discussed his upcoming album, Vol. 3: Life and Times of S. Carter. He talked about how his life had changed in the few short years since his industry breakthrough. "With five million records out there, there are all kinds of things that you have to deal with," he said. "Even though it's just been a year, people think that things change with you and start treating you differently. Street people start thinking that maybe you've gone soft. But I'm the same dude. That's why I did the song, ‘Come and Get Me.’ I'm still holding firm in my position."

When Vol. 3 came out, reviews were mixed. Soren Baker wrote in the Los Angeles Times on December 31, 1999, "For a man who rode to commercial prominence with the help of up-tempo, dance-ready tracks, Jay-Z is sounding pretty laid-back." According to Baker, the album fell short of the standard set by his Grammy-winning Vol. 2. It was from a calmer, less-clever Jay-Z, in that reviewer's opinion.

Arrested in Stabbing Incident

In early December of 1999 Jay-Z was charged with first-degree assault and second-degree assault after Untertainment Records executive Lance "Un" Rivera was stabbed once in the stomach and once in the shoulder. According to Newsweek, Jay-Z suspected that Rivera had released bootleg copies of his fourth album, an act that would lead to the loss of millions of dollars in rightful profits. Eyewitnesses reported that there was an altercation when the two came face to face at a record-release party for rapper Q-tip held in a New York nightclub. In the commotion that followed, Rivera was stabbed. At his arraignment in early 2000, Jay-Z pleaded not guilty.

In the weeks between the stabbing incident in New York and the release of the new album, Jon Caramanica talked about Jay-Z's difficult week in early December of 1999. "After the breakout success of last year's Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life, the expectations on Jay-Z were greater than ever," Caramanica wrote. "In fact, it's been speculated that the entire stabbing incident was part of some large marketing conspiracy to guarantee strong buzz and sales. In hip-hop, where crime is often flipped as a marketing tool, having your artist splashed across the cover of the Daily News may well work financial wonders, but that option seems absurd for a man in Jay's position. Still, the very existence of such a theory hints at an underlying belief that Jay, of all rappers, is too smart to go out like this. Business, never personal." Although his lawyers advised him not to discuss the case until the trial was concluded, Jay-Z did comment in Vibe in December of 2000 on the fact that one year after the stabbing incident, a trial date still had not been set. "I feel that if it was any other person," Jay-Z said, "it wouldn't still be dragging on this long." Yet Jay-Z maintained a positive attitude. He told Vibe, "Everything happens for a reason. It's another learning experience for me."

Despite his legal troubles and the mixed reviews for Vol. 3: Life and Times of S. Carter, Jay-Z's star continued to shine. The album was an instant platinum success, emphasizing his market power in a genre he helped to define. In 2000 Jay-Z released Dynasty: Roc la Familia. He told Vibe, "I could make records as long as I have … desire to really dig deep and challenge myself to do it. I can do it for as long as I want."

Feuded with Fellow Rapper

Already in the public eye in 2001 with a chart-topping duet with R. Kelly, "Fiesta," Jay-Z dropped what would become an instant classic—The Blueprint—on September 18, 2001. Selling nearly a half million albums in less than a week, The Blueprint was universally praised by critics and loved by fans. The first track on the album, "Takeover," was a searing attack on New York rapper Nas (Nas would reply with his own track, "Ether," attacking Jay-Z in the following weeks), a five-minute narrative over a blistering, thumping sample of The Doors' "Five to One." But "Takeover," wrote All Music Guide critic Jason Birchmeier, was "just one song. There are 12 other songs on The Blueprint—and they're all stunning, to the point where the album almost seems flawless." Besides the battle track, the album also showcases Jay-Z's songwriting skills on tracks like "Song Cry" and "Heart of the City." Birchmeier concluded that The Blueprint is "a fully realized masterpiece."

In the months that followed, the battle with Nas heated up. In response to "Ether," Jay-Z delivered an exclusive freestyle to a New York radio station, "Super Ugly," that dug deep at Nas. Among concerns that the battle could result in tragedy (as was the case between Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur in the 1990s), the battle slowly faded away. "Ultimately, Jay-Z and Nas have too much at stake for foolishness," wrote Village Voice contributor Selwyn Hinds, "and together they crafted a piece of hip-hop myth that will live for years to come."

Jay-Z recognized this in an MTV Unplugged session. Performing the track "Takeover," he referred to the act of the battle as "the truest essence of hip-hop," but one whose place was solely in recorded material. The MTV session, featuring the Roots as Jay-Z's backing band, was released in late 2001. Jay-Z was the first hip-hop artist to record an MTV Unplugged session, and Jay-Z's material translated to the format surprisingly well. "Hip-hop with live instrumentation has seldom sounded this good," wrote Hinds in the Village Voice.

The Blueprint 2: The Gift & the Curse, a double album with twenty-five tracks and numerous guest stars including Rakim, Dr. Dre, Lenny Kravitz, and Beyoncé Knowles, followed within a year. Some critics found the album to be unfocused and too long, which they believed kept it from becoming another classic. All Music Guide reviewer John Bush observed: "It's clear Jay-Z's in control even here, and though his raps can't compete with the concentrated burst on The Blueprint, there's at least as many great tracks on tap, if only listeners have enough time to find them." A few months later Jay-Z released The Blueprint 2.1, featuring the best tracks from The Blueprint 2 on a single CD.

Threatened to Retire Again

Jay-Z began talking about retiring from the stage even before releasing The Blueprint 2. He told reporters that his next album, the follow-up to The Blueprint 2, would be his final official release. The original concept for the release was to make a prequel to Reasonable Doubt, with no guest stars and a different producer for each track. What resulted was The Black Album. Though somewhat removed from the original concept, Jay-Z often and rightfully referred to the release as his most introspective album. From the track "December 4th" (Jay-Z's birthday), featuring spoken-word interludes from his mother, to the bittersweet closing track, "My First Song," Jay-Z used this turn in the studio to make an album that was at times hilarious and heartbreaking, and above all, honest. As he put it himself, "There's never been a n***a this good for this long, this hood or this pop, this hot for this long." The standout track "99 Problems" won Jay-Z the Grammy Award for best rap solo performance in February of 2005.

The Black Album was accompanied by a line of sneakers for Reebok, the S. Carter Collection, and a sold-out, allegedly final show at New York's Madison Square Garden. Speaking to MTV's Sway, Jay-Z tried to explain why he planned to retire while still enormously popular. "I'm in the comfort zone as far as making music," he said. "I'm a young guy, and I still have to challenge myself in life. I have to step outside my comfort zone. That's just part of being alive."

A feature film, Fade to Black, arrived in theaters in late 2004. The documentary, shot during the recording of The Black Album and at Jay-Z's "farewell" show at Madison Square Garden, received a positive review from the Chicago Tribune: "Whether a legend was born (or retired) that night at the Garden remains to be seen, but even on film, it was one killer show."

His retirement was short-lived; Jay-Z soon collaborated with R. Kelly on a second album and embarked on an ill-fated tour with the controversial R&B star. Kelly was asked to leave the tour soon after it started; Jay-Z continued the tour with guest stars, billing the tour "Jay-Z and Friends". Jay-Z and Kelly traded lawsuits, each contending the other was to blame for sabotaging the tour. In November of 2004 Jay-Z and hard rock band Linkin Park released Collision Course, a CD with mixtures of existing Jay-Z and Linkin Park songs, and a DVD featuring two versions of them performing these tracks for MTV. Jay-Z and Linkin Park shared a Grammy Award in February of 2006 for best rap/sung collaboration, for "Numb/Encore."

Continued to Amass Success

At the end of 2004 Jay-Z accepted the position of president of Universal Music Group's Def Jam Recordings label, a position previously held by Lyor Cohen and Antonio "L.A." Reid. The three-year deal was to bring Jay-Z an estimated $8 to $10 million salary. According to Entertainment Weekly, it marked the first time a still-popular artist controlled a major label. Speaking to the New York Times, record executive Steve Stoute praised the decision to appoint Jay-Z president: "His opinion of music and his point of view on marketing is absolutely spot-on. I don't know who wouldn't want to work for him." In the following two years, Jay-Z signed several prominent artists to Def Jam, including former rival Nas, breakthrough hip-hop star Kanye West, and the British rapper Lady Sovereign.

By late 2006 Jay-Z had an estimated net worth of $320 million; he owned a Manhattan skyscraper and part of the New Jersey Nets basketball team. He was also dating the glamorous singer Beyoncé Knowles and appeared in an MTV documentary about African drought. Yet the life of a wealthy executive was not enough for him. He came out of rap retirement to record a new album, Kingdom Come, released in November of 2006, which featured duets with Kanye West, Dr. Dre, and Chris Martin of Coldplay. "There has to come a day when I stop making records," he told Lorraine Ali in Newsweek, but he sounded unsure when that day would really come. "I think it would have been easier 10 years ago, because even though I had the inclination and talent, I didn't love it passionately. I didn't love it like I do now."

His ongoing love for making music was apparent with the December of 2007 release of a new album, American Gangster. Later that month Jay-Z announced that he was stepping down from his position as president of Def Jam. The move was a precursor to the announcement a few months later of a blockbuster deal with the concert promotion giant Live Nation. The Live Nation package, worth approximately $150 million, marked the creation of an entirely new music business model. It included everything from recording, concert ticket sales, merchandise sales, advertising, and virtually every other element of Jay-Z's musical life.

2008 brought a series of other significant new partnerships in Jay-Z's life as well. In February he earned another Grammy for his collaboration with Rihanna on the smash single "Umbrella." That spring, several media outlets revealed that Jay-Z and Beyoncé had tied the knot, though the couple remained coy about their marriage for some time afterward, avoiding a public announcement of their nuptials. A music industry giant on both the artistic and business sides of the game, Jay-Z remained a major force whose influence extended well beyond rap into every facet of the entertainment universe.

Selected discography

Singles

"In My Lifetime," Ffrr, 1995.

"Ain't No N-G-A (Like the One I Got)," 1996.

"Dead Presidents," Priority, 1996.

"Can't Knock the Hustle," Priority 1996.

"Feelin', It," Roc-A-Fella/Priority, 1997.

"This City Is Mine," Def Jam, 1998.

"Money Cash Hoes," Def Jam, 1999.

"Can I Get a Rush Hour," BMG International, 1999.

"Hard Knock Life," Def Jam, 1999.

"Do It Again," Def Jam, 1999; released on Polygram International, 2000.

"Things That U Do," Def Jam, 2000.

"Anything," Def Jam, 2000.

"Izzo," Def Jam, 2001.

"03 Bonnie and Clyde," Def Jam, 2002.

"Dirt off Your Shoulder," Def Jam, 2004.

"Show Me What You Got," Def Jam, 2006.

Albums

Reasonable Doubt, 1996.

In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, 1997.

Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life, 1998.

Vol. 3: Life and Times of S. Carter, 1999.

Dynasty: Roc la Familia, 2000.

The Blueprint, Roc-A-Fella, 2001.

Unplugged (live), Roc-A-Fella, 2001.

The Blueprint 2: The Gift & the Curse, Roc-A-Fella, 2002.

(With R. Kelly) The Best of Both Worlds, Universal, 2002.

The Blueprint 2.1, Roc-A-Fella, 2003.

The Black Album, Roc-A-Fella, 2003.

(With Linkin Park) Collision Course, Warner Bros., 2004.

American Gangster, Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam, 2007.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, June 29, 1996; November 23, 1996; December 28, 1996; December 2, 2004; September 17, 2005, p. 70.

Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, CA), September 7, 2000.

Daily News, April 20, 2005.

Entertainment Weekly, October 22, 2004.

Globe & Mail (Toronto), December 4, 2003.

Jet, September 27, 1999.

Los Angeles Times, December 27, 1999; December 31, 1999.

New York Post, April 4, 2008.

New York Times, December 26, 1999; December 30, 1999; January 1, 2000; December 9, 2004; December 25, 2007; April 3, 2008.

Newsweek, December 13, 1999; December 4, 2006.

People, April 5, 1999; October 25, 2004, pp. 75-76; January 17, 2005, p. 47.

Rolling Stone, October 14, 1999; December 5, 2005.

San Francisco Chronicle, September 6, 2000.

Teen People, June 16, 2002.

UPI NewsTrack, May 17, 2005; September 27, 2005.

USA Today, December 27, 1999; January 3, 2000.

Vibe, December 2000.

Village Voice, December 14, 1999; January 22, 2002; January 1, 2003.

Washington Post, December 14, 1999; January 2, 2000.

WWD, September 16, 2005, p. 20.

Online

Birchmeier, Jason; Bush, John: All Music Guide, now allmusic Web site, http://www.allmusic.com (accessed July 15, 2008).

Frere-Jones, Sasha, "From A- to A," Slate, April 4, 2004, http://slate.msn.com/id/2091248 (accessed July 15, 2008).

Garcia, Jennifer and Mike Fleeman, "Source: Beyoncé and Jay-Z Are Married," People, April 4, 2008, http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20188764,00.html (accessed July 15, 2008).

"Grammy Award Winners," Grammy.com, http://www.grammys.com/ (accessed July 15, 2008).

Hall, Sarah, "R. Kelly Raps Jay-Z with Lawsuit," E! Online, November 1, 2004, http://www.eonline.com/uberblog/detail.jsp?contentId=201eb2d2-948a-4c67-8149-c391171fec4a (accessed July 15, 2008).

Harris, Chris, "It's Official! Beyonce and Jay-Z File Signed Marriage License on Friday," MTV, April 22, 2008, http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1586008/20080422/knowles_beyonce.jhtml (accessed July 15, 2008).

Jay-Z Online, http://www.jayzonline.com (accessed July 15, 2008).

Kaufman, Gil, "Jay-Z and Beyonce Are Still Staying Quiet about Their Reported Wedding … But Why?" MTV, April 15, 2008, http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1585461/20080414/jay_z.jhtml# (accessed July 15, 2008).

Reid, Shaheem, "Jay-Z: What More Can I Say?" MTV, April 5, 2004, http://www.mtv.com/bands/j/jay_z/news_feature_112103 (accessed July 15, 2008).

Tyrangiel, Josh, "Jay-Z: Music's $150 Million Man," Time, April 3, 2008, http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1727519,00.html (accessed July 15, 2008).

—Laura Hightower, Jennifer M. York,
and Bob Jacobson

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Jay-Z

Jay-Z

Rap musician, record company executive

Jay-Z is all too familiar with the hard knock life. In his hit single "Hard Knock Life," Jay-Z samples the musical Annie 's signature song of the same name. "These kids sing about the hard knock life, things everyone in the ghetto feels coming up," Jay-Z said of the orphans in Annie in a People feature. "That's the ghetto anthem." The rap star grew up in a single-parent household in the Marcy Projects of Brooklyn, New York. Known for his honesty, Jay-Z has admitted in both his autobiographical lyrics and interviews that he sold drugs as a teenager. For Jay-Z, rap was his way out of the hard knock life. The money that came with a successful rap career would took him out of the Brooklyn projects, and rap music gave him a means to express his feelings about knocks and blows he has taken.

The way, however, was not easy and Jay-Z encountered more hard knocks along the road. When he could not get a record deal, Jay-Z, along with two friends, formed his own record label. He also had run-ins with the law. The timing of Jay-Z's arrest in early December of 1999 for the stabbing of record executive Lance "Un" Rivera at a Times Square nightclub could not have been worse. His much-awaited album, Volume 3: The Life and Times of S. Carter, was due to be released right after Christmas and it was uncertain whether the negative publicity from this latest incident would hurt sales. However, for a man who grew up on the mean streets of Brooklyn this was just another one of the hard knocks that has formed his voice in rap.

Jay-Z was born Shawn Carter on December 4, 1970, in Brooklyn, New York, the youngest of four children. He grew up in the well-known Marcy Projects, where the J and Z subway trains run. His mother, Gloria Carter, worked as a clerk in an investment company. Jay-Z's father, Adnis Reeves, left when he was 12. "To me, that was basically the end of our relationship," Jay-Z told Vibe. "That was when the hurt and then the healing began for me, from that day right there." Jay-Z's relationship with his father served as fodder for many of his songs, including the Black Album 's "Moment of Clarity," in which he forgave Reeves for abandoning his family. Jay-Z reconciled with his father in 2003, six months before his father passed away from a liver ailment.

Founded Roc-A-Fella

When Jay-Z was first starting out in the rap world, he was introduced to Damon "Dame" Dash, who, by the time he was 19, had already gotten record deals for two acts. Dash soon became Jay-Z's manager and Dash's childhood friend, Kareem "Biggs" Burke, was then hired as Jay-Z's road manager. For two years, the three worked unsuccessfully to obtain a record deal. The trio then decided to form their own record company, Roc-A-Fella Records, in which they would all serve as partners. Jay-Z's role was that of marquee artist, Dash ran the company's day-to-day operations, and Burke, according to Vibe, served as "a barometer of the streets." After Roc-A-Fella secured a deal with Priority Records for the distribution of their albums, Jay-Z was ready to release his first record, Reasonable Doubt.

Jay-Z rose to fame with his 1996 gold-certified single, "Ain't No N-G-A (Like the One I Got)," a duet with Foxy Brown. The controversy started immediately. The single's title was not the language that even the most daring disc jockeys wanted to play. According to Janine McAdams of Billboard in June of 1996, "For now, 'Ain't No N-G-A' has radio production rooms working overtime. None of the stations contacted for this story advocate the use of the n-word over the air, but their solutions are varied: Some edit the word out; others substitute 'brother' or 'player.'" Still, radio stations pointed out that, however reluctant they were to broadcast that and other offensive words, the public knew when it was cut out anyway. In some cases, the change altered the content enough to lose its intended impact and appeal.

Despite the hardcore quality of his first album, as Shawnee Smith of Billboard, noted in November of 1999, it was Jay-Z who also began to transform the hip-hop scene from its hardcore "gangsta rap" to something that bears a more refined stylethat of "Armani suits, alligator boots, Rolex watches, expensive cars, broads, and Cristel," At the end of 1996, Havelock Nelson reflected on the year in rap for Billboard. Jay-Z, Nelson said, "masterfully reinvented himself after receiving battle scars from his previous rhyme life."

Announced His Retirement

In addition to making music, Jay-Z was also interested in the corporate side of the business. Since 1994, Jay-Z had been producing records for other artists as chief of operations for the Roc-A-Fella label. The same handle he had for money in the drug business translated well into the music industry. He talked about his future at that time; "Although my album has already gone gold, it will be my last one. From this point, it's all about the business." Jay-Z did not retire from rap, however. Jay-Z told Vibe that he realized his music had a powerful effect on his fans. "There were cats coming up to me like, 'You must have been looking in my window or following my life' ... It was emotional. Like big, rough hoodlum, hardrock, three-time jail bidders with scars and gold teeth just breaking down. It was something to look at, like, I must be going somewhere people been wanting someone to go for a while." So he returned to rap in 1997, with the album In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. In 1998 his best-sellingVol. 2: Hard Knock Life won him a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album.

In 1999, Jay-Z headlined the Hard Knock Life Tour, which also featured DMX, Beanie Sigel, and others. Jay-Z used his stature as a hit-producing rap star to ensure that the rappers he wanted would be included on the tour. At the outset, there were fears that violence would break out on the tour. The tour concluded without incident, however, and was a resounding success.

For the Record . . .

Born Shawn Corey Carter on December 4, 1970, in Brooklyn, NY; son of Gloria Carter and Adnis Reeves.

Released debut album, Reasonable Doubt, Roc-A-Fella, 1996; In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, Roc-A-Fella, 1997; released Vol.2: Hard Knock Life, Roc-A-Fella, 1998; released Vol. 3: The Life and Times of Shawn Carter, Roc-A-Fella, 1999; established Rocawear clothing company, 1999; charged with assault, 1999; released The Dynasty: Roc la Familia, Roc-A-Fella, 2000; released The Blueprint, 2001; released The Blueprint 2: The Gift & the Curse, 2002; opened the 40/40 club in New York City, 2003; released The Blueprint 2.1, 2003; released The Black Album, 2003; retired from rap to focus on business ventures, 2004.

Awards: Grammy Award, Best Rap Album for Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life, 1998; MTV Video Music Award, Best Rap Video, for "Can I Get A...," 1999; Source Award, Lyricist of the Year, Solo, 1999; Billboard Award, Rap Artist of the Year, 1999; Soul Train Award, Sammy Davis Jr. Entertainer of the Year, 2001; BET Award, Best Male Hip Hop Artist, 2001; Source Award, Best Hip Hop Artist, Solo, 2001; Soul Train Award, Album of the Year for The Blueprint, 2002; Grammy Award, Best R&B Song (with Beyoncé) for "Crazy in Love," 2003; Grammy Award, Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (with Beyoncé) for "Crazy in Love," 2003; ASCAP Golden Note Award, 2004.

Addresses: Record company Roc-A-Fella Records, 160 Varick St., 12th Fl., New York, NY 10013, phone: (212) 229-5200, fax: (212) 229-5299, website: http://www.rocafella.com.

A documentary crew joined the tour, filming the rappers as they performed, hung out backstage, and traveled in tour buses. The resulting film, "Backstage," was released in September of 2000. Some reviewers lamented that the documentary did not provide a complete picture of Roc-A-Fella's place in the rap world. Although, Elvis Mitchell of the Contra Costa Times noted, hardcore fans are already familiar with the rivalries of the rap business. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle said that "The film makes no attempt to guide hip-hop novices. It just tosses the viewer into this musical experience, which will seem vital to some and depressing and repetitious to others."

In 1999, Jay-Z was preparing to release his fourth album. In the December 27, 1999, issue of USA Today, Steve Jones wrote that he noticed in a session he sat in on with Jay-Z and rapper Beanie Sigel, that Jay-Z never writes down a lyric. "I don't write songs," Jay-Z explained. "I just sit there and listen to the track, and I come up with the words. It's a gift. A gift from God." In the article Jay-Z also discussed his upcoming album, Vol. 3: The Life and Times of Shawn Carter. He talked about how his life had changed in the few short years of his success. "With five million records out there, there are all kinds of things that you have to deal with," he said. "Even though it's just been a year, people think that things change with you and start treating you differently. Street people start thinking that maybe you've gone soft. But I'm the same dude. That's why I did the song, 'Come and Get Me.' I'm still holding firm in my position."

Arrested in Stabbing Incident

In early December of 1999, Jay-Z was charged with first-degree assault and second-degree assault after Untertainment Records executive Lance "Un" Rivera was stabbed once in the stomach and once in the shoulder. According to Newsweek, Jay-Z suspected that Rivera had released bootleg copies of his fourth album, an act that would lead to the loss of millions of dollars in rightful profits. When the two came face to face at a record-release party for rapper Q-Tip held in a New York nightclub, eye-witnesses reported that there was an altercation between the two. In the commotion that followed, Rivera was stabbed. At his arraignment in early 2000, Jay-Z pleaded not guilty.

In the weeks between the stabbing incident in New York, and the release of his new album, Jon Caramanica talked about Jay-Z's difficult week in early December of 1999. "After the breakout success of last year's Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life, the expectations on Jay-Z were greater than ever," Caramanica wrote. "In fact, it's been speculated that the entire stabbing incident was part of some large marketing conspiracy to guarantee strong buzz and sales. In hip-hop, where crime is often flipped as a marketing tool, having your artist splashed across the cover of the Daily News may well work financial wonders, but that option seems absurd for a man in Jay's position. Still, the very existence of such a theory hints at an underlying belief that Jay, of all rappers, is too smart to go out like this.

Business, never personal." Jay-Z commented in Vibe in December of 2000 on the fact that, one year after the stabbing incident, a trial date still had not been set. "I feel that if it was any other person," Jay-Z said, "it wouldn't still be dragging on this long." Yet he maintained a positive attitude. He told Vibe, "Everything happens for a reason. It's another learning experience for me."

Despite the mixed reviews of Vol. 3: Life and Times of Shawn Carter and his legal troubles, Jay-Z was still on top of his game. The album was an instant platinum success, emphasizing that he still had the power to be a number one seller in the genre he helped to define. In 2000, Jay-Z released Dynasty: Roc la Familia. He told Vibe, "I could make records as long as I have to desire to really dig deep and challenge myself to do it. I can do it for as long as I want." Dynasty featured a host of new producers, including Just Blaze and Kanye West, who would go on to produce some of Jay-Z's biggets hits. Jay-Z shared equal mic time with up-and-coming Roc-A-Fella artists on the album, including Memphis Bleek and Beanie Siegel. The album produced a few hits, including the huge success that was "I Just Wanna Love U (Give It To Me)."

Laid The Blueprint

Already in the public eye in 2001 with a chart-topping duet with R. Kelly, "Fiesta," Jay-Z dropped what would become an instant classicThe Blueprint on September 18, 2001. Selling nearly a half million albums in less than a week, The Blueprint was universally praised by critics and loved by fans. The first track on the album, "Takeover," was a searing attack on New York rapper Nas (Nas would reply with his own track, "Ether," attacking Jay-Z in the following weeks), a five-minute narrative over a blistering, thumping sample of the Doors' "Five to One." But "Takeover," wrote All Music Guide critic Jason Birchmeier, was "just one song. There are 12 other songs on The Blueprint and they're all stunning, to the point where the album almost seems flawless." Besides the battle track, the album also showcases Jay-Z's songwriting skills on tracks like "Song Cry" and "Heart of the City." Birchmeier concluded that The Blueprint is "a fully realized masterpiece."

In the months that followed, the battle with Nas heated up. In response to "Ether," Jay-Z delivered an exclusive freestyle to a New York radio station, "Super Ugly," that dug deep at Nas. Among concerns that the battle could result in tragedy (as was the case with the Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur in the 1990s), the battle slowly faded away. "Ultimately, Jay-Z and Nas have too much at stake for foolishness," wrote Village Voice contributor Selwyn Hinds, "and together they crafted a piece of hip-hop myth that will live for years to come."

Jay-Z recognized this in an MTV Unplugged session. Performing the track "Takeover," he referred to the act of the battle as "the truest essence of hip-hop," but one whose place was solely in recorded material. The MTV session, featuring the Roots as Jay-Z's backing band, was released in late 2001. Jay-Z was the first hip-hop artist to record such an MTV Unplugged session, and Jay-Z's material translated to an Unplugged session surprisingly well. "Hip-hop with live instrumentation has seldom sounded this good," wrote Hinds in the Village Voice.

The Blueprint 2: The Gift & the Curse, a double album with 25 tracks and numerous guest starts including Rakim, Dr. Dre, Lenny Kravitz, and Beyoncé Knowles, followed within a year. The release was generally thought to be unfocused and too long; many reviewers agreed that if Jay-Z had edited the album down to a single disc, it would've been another classic. All Music Guide reviewer John Bush observed: "It's clear Jay-Z's in control even here, and though his raps can't compete with the concentrated burst on The Blueprint, there's at least as many great tracks on tap, if only listeners have enough time to find them." A few months later, Jay-Z released The Blueprint 2.1, featuring the best tracks from The Blueprint 2 on a single CD.

From Marcy to Madison Square

Jay-Z began talking about retiring from the stage even before releasing The Blueprint 2. He told reporters that his next album, the follow-up to The Blueprint 2, would be his final official release. The original concept for the release was to make a prequel to Reasonable Doubt, with no guest stars and a different producer for each track. What resulted was The Black Album. Though somewhat removed from the original concept, Jay-Z often and rightfully referred to the release as his most introspective album. From the track "December 4th" (Jay-Z's birthday), featuring spoken word interludes from his mother, to the bittersweet closing track "My First Song," Jay-Z used his final turn in the studio to make an album that was at times hilarious and heartbreaking, and above all, honest. As he put it himself, "There's never been a n***a this good for this long, this hood or this pop, this hot for this long." If The Black Album is indeed Jay-Z's final release, he couldn't have gone out on a better note.

The Black Album was accompanied by an autobiography, The Black Book ; a line of sneakers for Reebok, the S. Carter Collection; and a final sold-out show at New York's Madison Square Garden. Speaking to MTV's Sway, Jay-Z tried to explain why he planned to retire while still enormously popular. "I'm in the comfort zone as far as making music," he said. "I'm a young guy, and I still have to challenge myself in life. I have to step outside my comfort zone. That's just part of being alive."

Selected discography

Reasonable Doubt, Roc-A-Fella, 1996.

In My Lifetime Vol. 1, Roc-A-Fella, 1997.

Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life, Roc-A-Fella, 1998

Vol. 3: The Life and Times of Shawn Carter, Roc-A-Fella, 1999.

Dynasty: Roc la Familia, Roc-A-Fella, 2000.

The Blueprint, Roc-A-Fella, 2001.

Unplugged (live), Roc-A-Fella, 2001.

The Blueprint 2: The Gift & the Curse, Roc-A-Fella, 2002.

(With R. Kelly) The Best of Both Worlds, Universal, 2002.

The Blueprint 2.1, Roc-A-Fella, 2003.

The Black Album, Roc-A-Fella, 2003.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, June 29, 1996; November 23, 1996; December 28, 1996.

Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, CA), September 7, 2000.

Globe & Mail (Toronto, Canada), December 4, 2003.

Jet, September 27, 1999.

Los Angeles Times, December 27, 1999; December 31, 1999.

Newsweek, December 13, 1999.

New York Times, December 26, 1999; December 30, 1999; January 1, 2000.

People Weekly, April 5, 1999.

Rolling Stone, October 14, 1999.

San Francisco Chronicle, September 6, 2000.

Teen People, June 16, 2002.

USA Today, December 27, 1999; January 3, 2000.

Vibe, December 2000.

Village Voice, December 14, 1999; January 22, 2002; January 1, 2003.

Washington Post, December 14, 1999; January 2, 2000.

Online

"From A- to A," Slate Magazine, http://slate.msn.com/id/2091248 (April 4, 2004).

"Jay-Z," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (April 4, 2004).

"Jay-Z: What More Can I Say?," MTV.com, http://www.mtv.com/bands/j/jay_z/news_feature_112103 (April 5, 2004).

Laura Hightower and Jennifer M. York

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Jay-Z

JAY-Z

Born: Sean Carter; Brooklyn, New York, 4 December 1971

Genre: Hip-Hop

Hit songs since 1990: "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)," "Can I Get a . . ."


Jay-Z began his career in the early 1990s as a sideman to more prominent artists and ended the decade as one of hip-hop's most popular rappers. He has replaced the violence and poverty associated with his childhood homethe Marcy Projects in Brooklyn, New Yorkwith a self-made image of opulent excess and material wealth. Though talented as a lyricist, both in his evocative story-telling abilities and in his clever writing skills, Jay-Z's greatest asset has been his charisma. Like his peer, the Notorious B.I.G., the alternately seductive and sinister Jay-Z exudes confidence and charm in his music.

While still in his teens, Sean Carter was mentored by a Brooklyn MC, Jaz, who gave the younger artist the moniker of Jay-Z as a diminutive of his own name. Jaz's own career stalled out by the early 1990s, despite modest hits such as "Hawaiian Sophie," which features Jay-Z. For the first half of the 1990s, Jay-Z appeared as a cameo guest on other artists' songs, most prominently Original Flavor's "Can I Get Open?" and Mic Geronimo's "Train of Thought," but it was not until 1995 that Jay-Z released his own single, "In My Lifetime." However, the song was not a success, and Jay-Z languished in industry invisibility until his decision to start his own label, Roc-A-Fella, and restart his career as an independent artist.

The first single Roc-A-Fella released was "Dead Presidents" (1996). The song was a modest success, but it was the single's b-side, "Ain't No Nigga," which included a then-unknown Foxy Brown, that became Jay-Z's runaway hit. "Ain't No Nigga" interpolates two elements already familiar to fans of R&B and hip-hop: the bass line from the Whole Darn Family's "Seven Minutes of Funk" and a chorus based on the R&B hit "Ain't No Woman." Rather than sing platitudes to his paramour, Jay-Z turns "Ain't No Nigga" into a celebration of sex, money, and fashion with lines such as "Fresh to def in Moschino, Coach bag / Lookin' half black and Filipino."


First Albums

The immense success of "Ain't No Nigga" led to the release of Jay-Z's debut album, Reasonable Doubt (1996). Though Reasonable Doubt is not Jay-Z's best-selling album, critics laud it as his most compelling. The key to that critical praise lies in how Jay-Z simultaneously celebrates his material success while moralizing on his excess.

For example, like his peer, the Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z plays up his past as a drug pusher, celebrating the lifestyle on the album's "Can't Knock the Hustle." At the same time, songs like "D'Evils" and "Regrets" reflect Jay-Z's awareness of the spiritual cost of his underworld aspirations. This duality imbues Jay-Z's music with a complexity that distinguishes him from other rappers who also rhyme about their wealth but do not admit the price paid.

Jay-Z's next two albums, In My Lifetime Vol. 1 (1997) and Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life (1998), were commercial successes but were coolly received by critics. These works were criticized for containing formulaic pop hits rather than career-advancing material save for the unlikely hit title track from Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem), which samples the chorus from the Broadway musical Annie.

It took until Vol. 3: The Life and Times of S. Carter (1999) for Jay-Z to return to form. Unlike the previous two albums, The Life and Times of S. Carter finds Jay-Z lording over his competition with sweeping street narratives and outrageous displays of bravado. Producer Timbaland makes a prominent contribution to the album thanks to his funky minimalism, and Jay-Z does his part by minting another pop anthem with the exotically flavored "Big Pimpin." He attacks with fierce braggadocio on songs like "Come and Get Me": "Ignorant bastard, I'm takin' it back to day one / No kids, but trust me I know how to raise a gun."

In 2001 Jay-Z released The Blueprint (2001), which was both a financial and critical triumph. Lyrically, The Blueprint covers familiar ground for Jay-Zweapons, women, wealthbut his production team, led by Just Blaze and Kayne West, engineered one of the best-sounding hip-hop albums of the year.

Tapping into soul music samples from the 1970s, Blaze and West create a soundtrack that is comforting and familiar, an unintentionally appropriate tone given the macabre coincidence that The Blueprint was released on September 11, 2001, the day of the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.


Public Controversies

The Blueprint coincided with Jay-Z's growing popularity and attendant coverage in the mass media, fueled by interest in an alleged stabbing incident involving Jay-Z and a rap industry executive. Jay-Z made a great deal of this situation, even building it into The Blueprint 's major hit, "Izzo," "Not guilty / ya'll got to feel me." Ironically, in 2002 Jay-Z pled guilty to the charge and was given probation. During this time Jay-Z also carried on a public battle with the rival rapper Nas, both of whom drafted songs and made radio appearances in which they attacked each other.

Spot Light: "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)"

few could have predicted it, but one of the major summer smashes of 1998 featured a broadway musical chorus mixed into a hip-hop hit. unlike previous rap songs that sampled from well-known soul or funk songs, "hard knock life (ghetto anthem)" drew from the unlikely source of annie: the musical. producer 45 king looped part of the piano melody from annie, but he also used the song's main chorus, making "hard knock life (ghetto anthem)" instantly recognizable and memorable. jay-z uses this playful platform as a backdrop for lyrics that both praise his own greatness but also give a nod to all the hard luck cases out there, from "all my niggas / locked down in the ten by four," to "chicks wishin', they ain't have to strip to pay tuition." on the strength of its wide-ranging appeal, the song quickly catapulted its way up the pop charts. combined with jay-z's other memorable anthems of the time, "can i get a . . ." and "money ain't a thing," the song made hard knock life (ghetto anthem) one of jay-z's best-selling albums. an altered version of the song appears in the 2002 movie austin powers in goldmember.

Rather than stemming his popularity, these incidents only inflated Jay-Z's public prominence, which was further enhanced by an August 2001 profile in The New Yorker and a November 2002 appearance on 60 Minutes II. The same month Jay-Z released The Blueprint 2: The Gift and the Curse, his first double-album. Despite its aspirations to match the excellence of its predecessor, The Blueprint 2 is a bloated affair of anemic production and grating martyrdom.

For most of his career, Jay-Z has lived in the shadow of the Notorious B.I.G. Had Biggie not been murdered in 1997, it is quite possible that the two would have ended up as rivals for the title of Brooklyn's finest, but Biggie's death vacated a throne to which Jay-Z has paid homage. At times, Jay-Z's stature as one of rap's greatest talents has seemed secure. However, artistic inconsistencies and a penchant for public controversy have shadowed his legacy.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Reasonable Doubt (RocA-Fella/Priority, 1996), Vol. 3: The Life and Times of S. Carter (Roc-A-Fella, 1999); The Blueprint (Roc-A-Fella, 2001).

oliver wang

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Jay-Z

Jay-Z

Rap/hip-hop artist

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

In early December of 1999 when rapper Jay-Z was arrested for the stabbing of record executive Lance Un Rivera, at a Times Square nightclub, the news came at the wrong time. His much-awaited new CD, Volume 3: The Life & Times of S. Carter, was due to be released right after Christmas. With parents hesitant enough to allow their teens to buy music they dont understand in the first place, the question was asked whether this latest incident would hurt sales due to the negative publicity. For a guy who grew up on the mean streets of Brooklyn, New York, this was just another one of the hard knocks that has formed his voice in rap.

Jay-Z was born Shawn Carter on December 4, 1970, in Brooklyn, New York, the youngest of four children. He grew up in the well-known Marcy Projects, where the J and Z subway trains run. He has gained his fans despite of, or maybe because of his life as a cocaine dealer before he joined the world of rap. Jay-Z rose to fame with his 1996 gold-certified single, a duet with Foxy Brown. The controversy started immediately. Its title, Aint No N-G-A (Like the One I Got) was not the language that even the most daring disc jockeys wanted to play.

According to Janine McAdams of Billboard in June of 1996, For now, Aint No N-G-A has radio production rooms working overtime. None of the stations contacted for this story advocate the use of the n-word over the air, but their solutions are varied: Some edit the word out; others substitute brother or player. Still, radio stations pointed out that, however reluctant they were to broadcast that and other offensive words, the public knew when it was cut out anyway. In some cases, the change altered the content enough to lose its intended impact and appeal. Yet it was Jay-Z who also began to transform the hip-hop scene from its hardcore gangsta rap to something that bears a more refined stylethat of Armani suits, alligator boots, Rolex watches, expensive cars, broads and Cristel, noted Shawnee Smith of Billboard, in November of 1999.

Jay-Zs drug days and the hustling that went with them was a theme that would permeate all of his music. When an article in the Village Voice appeared in August in of 1996 at the beginning of his career, Jay-Z said his philosophy was very much an important piece of understanding his music. The other subject of the article was fellow rapper, Nas, and the contrast between the two of them was highlighted. Nas is a radical philosopher in the tradition of Rakim and Nietzsche. Jay-Z is strictly business, with visions of expansion (Dabbled in crazy weight/Im still spending money from 88). Nas is a pensive poet with a vast vocabulary. Jay-Z is a sharp conversationalist with impeccable timing, the reporters noted. Mostly, they said, Nas and Jay-Z were born to rhyme.

For the Record

Born Shawn Carter on December 4, 1970, in Brooklyn, New York.

Rap artist, performing pop-rap, crossover rap, harcore rap, East Coast rap, urban, hip-hop for Def Jam, Priority, Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam, BMG International labels; released debut album, Reasonable Doubt, Freeze/Rock-A-Fella, 1996; In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, Rock-A-Fella/Def Jam, 1997; released Vol. 2: Hard Nock Life, Rock-A-Fella/Def Jam, 1998; released Vol. 3: The Life and Times of Shawn Carter, Def Jam, 1999.

Awards: Grammy Award, Best Rap Album of 1998, for Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life, 1998.

Addresses: Record company Def Jam Records, 160 Varick St, 12thFloor, New York City, NY 10013, phone: (212) 229-5200, fax: (212) 229-5299.

At the end of 1996, Havelock Nelson reflected on the year in rap for Bilboard. Nelson summarized the movement Jay-Z had made when he said that he, masterfully reinvented himself after receiving battle scars from his previous rhyme life. Jay-Z indicated his interest in the corporate side of the business, too. Since 1994, Jay-Z had been producing records for other artists as chief of operations for the Roc-A-Fella label. The same handle he had for money in the drug business translated well into the music industry. He talked about his future at that time; Although my album has already gone gold, it will be my last one. From this point, its all about the business. Obviously, Jay-Z could not stay away from performing any more than he could make a bad business decision. He came back in 1997, with his album, In My Lifetime, and in 1998 his bestselling, Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life, won him a Grammy as best rap album.

On December 27, 1999, Steve Jones of USA Today talked about the artist Jay-Z. When Jones sat in on a session with Jay-Z and rapper Beanie Sigel, he noticed that Jay-Z never writes down a lyric. I dont write songs. I just sit there and listen to the track, and I come up with the words. Its a gift. A gift from God. Jay-Z also had big anticipation for his upcoming album, Vol 3: The Life & Times of Shawn Carter. He talked about how his life had changed in the few short years of his success. With five million records out there, there are all kinds of things that you have to deal with, he said. Even though its just been a year, people think that things change with you and start treating you differently. Street people start thinking that maybe youve gone soft. But Im the same dude. Thats why I did the song, Come and Get Me. Im still holding firm in my position.

When Vol 3 came out, reviews were mixed. Soren Baker wrote in The Los Angeles Times, on December 31, 1999, the week the new release came out, For a man who rode to commercial prominence with the help of up-tempo, dance-ready tracks, Jay-Z is sounding pretty laid-back. According to Baker, the album fell behind his Grammy-winning Vol. 2, out last year. It was from a calmer, even less-clever and humorous Jay-Z, in that reviewers opinion.

In the weeks between the stabbing incident in New York, and the release of his new album, Jon Caramanica talked about Jay-Zs difficult week in early December of 1999. Jay-Z has denied his guilt and made a plea of not guilty when he went to court on January 31, 2000. The case is still pending. After the breakout success of last years Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life, the expectations on Jay-Z were greater than ever, Caramanica wrote. In fact, its been speculated that the entire stabbing incident was part of some large marketing conspiracy to guarantee strong buzz and sales. In hip-hop, where crime is often flipped as a marketing tool, having your artist splashed across the cover of the Daily News may well work financial wonders, but that option seems absurd for a man in Jays position. Still, the very existence of such a theory hints at an underlying belief that Jay, of all rappers, is too smart to go out like this. Business, never personal. A Mariah Carey special recorded prior to the incident that included Jay-Z as a featured guest star was not edited to exclude him for the January broadcast.

Jay-Z has worked with some of the biggest stars of the rap and hip-hop scene, including, Lil Kim, Jermaine Dupri, Busta Rhymes, Kelly Price, Doug Wilson, Sean Puffy Combs, Nasheim Myrick, Kid Capri, Mase, Deric Angelettie, Too $hort, Joe Quinde, Sauce Money, Stephen Dent, Big Jaz, and Stevie J.

Whatever the reviews on his Life and Times of Shawn Carter said or did not say about him, Jay-Z showed no signs of retiring. The album was an instant platinum success, emphasizing what a number one seller he still was in the genre he has helped to define. For this man who was born to rhyme Jay-Z did not seem to be running out of words any time soon.

Selected discography

Singles

In My Lifetime, Ffrr, 1995.

Cant Knock the Hustle, Priority 1996.

Feelin, It, Roc-A-Fella/Priority, 1997.

This City Is Mine, Def Jam, 1998.

Can I Get a Rush Hour, BMG International, 1999.

Hard Knock Life, Def Jam, 1999.

Do It Again, Def Jam, 1999; released on Polygram International, 2000.

Things That U Do, Def Jam, 2000.

Anything, Def Jam, 2000.

Albums

Reasonable Doubt, 1996.

In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, 1997.

Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life, 1998

Vol. 3: The Life and Times of Shawn Carter, 1999.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, June 29, 1996; Nov. 23, 1996; Dec. 28, 1996.

Los Angeles Times, Dec. 27, 1999; Dec. 31, 1999.

Newsweek, Dec. 13, 1999.

New York Times, Dec. 26, 1999; Dec. 30, 1999; Jan. 1, 2000.

Rolling Stone, Oct. 14, 1999.

USA Today, Dec. 27, 1999; Jan. 3, 2000.

Village Voice, Aug. 13, 1996; Dec. 14, 1999.

Washington Post, Dec. 14, 1999; Jan. 2, 2000.

Online

Jay-Z discography, All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (April 2000).

MTV Online, http://www.mtv.com (April 2000).

Jane Spear

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Jay-Z 1970–

Jay-Z 1970

Rapper

At a Glance

Controversial Hit Single

Toured With Success

Arrested in Stabbing Incident

Selected discography

Sources

Jay-Z is all too familiar with the hard knock life. In his hit single Hard Knock Life, Jay-Z samples the musical Annies signature song of the same name. These kids sing about the hard knock life, things everyone in the ghetto feels coming up, Jay-Z says of the orphans in Annie in People Weekly. Thats the ghetto anthem. The rap star grew up in a single-parent household in the projects of Brooklyn, New York. Known for his honesty, Jay-Z has admitted in both his autobiographical lyrics and interviews that he sold drugs as a teenager. For Jay-Z, rap was his way out of the hard knock life. First, the money that came with a successful rap career would take him out of the Brooklyn projects. Second, rap music was a means to express his feelings about knocks and blows he has taken over the years.

The way, however, was not easy and Jay-Z encountered more hard knocks along the road. When he could not get a record deal, Jay-Z, along with two friends, formed his own record label. The timing of Jay-Zs arrest in early December of 1999 for the stabbing of record executive Lance Un Rivera at a Times Square nightclub could not have been worse. His much-awaited album, Volume 3: The Life & Times of S. Carter, was due to be released right after Christmas and it was uncertain whether the negative publicity from this latest incident would hurt sales. However, for a man who grew up on the mean streets of Brooklyn this was just another one of the hard knocks that has formed his voice in rap.

Jay-Z was born Shawn Carter on December 4, 1970, in Brooklyn, New York, the youngest of four children. He grew up in the well-known Marcy Projects, where the J and Z subway trains run. His mother, Gloria Carter, worked as a clerk in an investment company. Jay-Zs father left when he was 12. To me, that was basically the end of our relationship, Jay-Z told Vibe That was when the hurt and then the healing began for me, from that day right there. In his teens, Jay-Z was a cocaine dealer before he joined the world of rap.

When Jay-Z was first starting out in the rap world, he was introduced to Damon Dash, who, by the time he was 19, had already gotten record deals for two acts. Dash soon became Jay-Zs manager and Dashs childhood friend, Kareem Biggs Burke, was then hired as Jay-Zs road manager. For two years, the three worked unsuccessfully to obtain a record deal. The trio then decided to form their own record company, Roc-A-Fella Records,

At a Glance

Born Shawn Carter on December 4, 1970, in Brooklyn, NY.

Career: Rap artist, performing pop~rap, crossover rap, hardcore rap, East Coast rap, urban, hip-hop for Def Jam, Priority, Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam, BMG International labels; released debut album, Reasonable Doubt, Freeze/Roc-A-Fella, 1996; in My Lifetime, Voi /, Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam, 1997; released Voi2: Hard Knock Life, Roc-A-Felia/Def Jam, 1998; released Voi 3: The Life and Times of Shawn Carter, Def Jam, 1999; released The Dynasty: Roc la Familia, Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam, 2000,

Awards: Grammy Award, Best Rap Album of 1998, for Vol 2: Hard Knock Life, 1998; MTV Video Music Award, Best Rap Video, for Can I Get A..,1999.

Addresses: Record companyDef Jam Records, 160 Varick St., 12th Floor, New York City, NY 10013 Phone: (212) 229-5200 Fax: (212) 229-5299.

in which they would all serve as partners. Jay-Zs role was that of marquee artist, Dash ran the companys day-to-day operations, and Burke, according to Vibe, served as a barometer of the streets. After Roc-A-Fella secured a deal with Priority Records for the distribution of their albums, Jay-Z was ready to release his first record, Reasonable Doubt.

Controversial Hit Single

Jay-Z rose to fame with his 1996 gold-certified single,Aint No N-G-A (Like the One I Got), a duet with Foxy Brown. The controversy started immediately. The singles title was not the language that even the most daring disc jockeys wanted to play. According to Janine McAdams of Billboard in June of 1996, For now, Aint No N-G-A has radio production rooms working overtime. None of the stations contacted for this story advocate the use of the n-word over the air, but their solutions are varied: Some edit the word out; others substitute brother or player. Still, radio stations pointed out that, however reluctant they were to broadcast that and other offensive words, the public knew when it was cut out anyway. In some cases, the change altered the content enough to lose its intended impact and appeal.

Despite the hardcore quality of his first album, as Shawnee Smith of Billboard, noted it was Jay-Z who also began to transform the hip-hop scene from its hardcore gangsta rap to something that bears a more refined stylethat of Armani suits, alligator boots, Rolex watches, expensive cars, broads and Cristel, At the end of 1996, Havelock Nelson reflected on the year in rap for Billboard. Jay-Z, Nelson said, masterfully reinvented himself after receiving battle scars from his previous rhyme life.

In addition to making music, Jay-Z was also interested in the corporate side of the business. Since 1994, Jay-Z had been producing records for other artists as chief of operations for the Roc-A-Fella label. The same handle he had for money in the drug business translated well into the music industry. He talked about his future at that time; Although my album has already gone gold, it will be my last one. From this point, its all about the business. Jay-Z did not retire from rap, however. Jay-Z told Vibe that he realized his music had a powerful effect on his fans. There were cats coming up to me like, You must have been looking in my window or following my life. It was emotional. Like big, rough hoodlum, hardrock, three-time jail bidders with scars and gold teeth just breaking down. It was something to look at, like, I must be going somewhere people been wanting someone to go for a while. So he returned to rap in 1997, with the album, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. In 1998 his best-selling, Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life, won him a Grammy award for best rap album.

Toured With Success

In 1999, Jay-Z headlined the Hard Knock Life Tour, which also featured DMX, Beanie Sigel, and others. Jay-Z used his stature as a hit-producing rap star to ensure that the rappers wanted would be included on the tour. At the outset, there were fears that violence would break out on the tour. The tour concluded without incident, however, and was a resounding success.

A documentary crew joined the tour, filming the rappers as they performed, hung out backstage, and traveled in tour buses. The resulting film, Backstage, was released in September of 2000. Some reviewers lamented that the documentary did provide as complete a picture of Rock-A-Fella/Def Jamss place in the rap world. Although, Elvis Mitchell of the Contra Costa Times notes that hardcore fans are already familiar with the rivalries of the rap business. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle says that The film makes no attempt to guide hip-hop novices. It just tosses the viewer into this musical experience, which will seem vital to some and depressing and repetitious to others.

In 1999, Jay-Z was preparing to release his fourth album. In USA Today Steve Jones wrote that he noticed in a session he sat in on with Jay-Z and rapper Beanie Sigel, that Jay-Z never writes down a lyric. I dont write songs, Jay-Z explained. I just sit there and listen to the track, and I come up with the words. Its a gift. A gift from God. In the article Jay-Z also discussed his upcoming album, Vol. 3: The Life & Times of Shawn Carter. He talked about how his life had changed in the few short years of his success. With five million records out there, there are all kinds of things that you have to deal with, he said. Even though its just been a year, people think that things change with you and start treating you differently. Street people start thinking that maybe youve gone soft. But Im the same dude. Thats why I did the song, Come and Get Me. Im still holding firm in my position.

When Vol 3... came out, reviews were mixed. Soren Baker wrote in The Los Angeles Times, For a man who rode to commercial prominence with the help of up-tempo, dance-ready tracks, Jay-Z is sounding pretty laid-back. According to Baker, the album fell behind his Grammy-winning Vol. 2. It was from a calmer, even less-clever and humorous Jay-Z, in that reviewers opinion.

Arrested in Stabbing Incident

In early December of 1999, Jay-Z was charged with first-degree assault and second-degree assault after Untertainment Records executive Lance Un Rivera was stabbed once in the stomach and once in the shoulder. According to Newsweek, Jay-Z suspected that Rivera had released bootleg copies of his fourth album, an act that would lead to the loss of millions of dollars in rightful profits. When the two came face to face at a record-release party for rapper Q-tip held in a New York nightclub, eye-witnesses reported that there was an altercation between the two. In the commotion that followed, Rivera was stabbed. At his arraignment in early 2000, Jay-Z pleaded not guilty.

In the weeks between the stabbing incident in New York, and the release of his new album, Jon Caramanica talked about Jay-Zs difficult week in early December of 1999. After the breakout success of last years Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life, the expectations on Jay-Z were greater than ever, Caramanica wrote. In fact, its been speculated that the entire stabbing incident was part of some large marketing conspiracy to guarantee strong buzz and sales. In hip-hop, where crime is often flipped as a marketing tool, having your artist splashed across the cover of the Daily News may well work financial wonders, but that option seems absurd for a man in Jays position. Still, the very existence of such a theory hints at an underlying belief that Jay, of all rappers, is too smart to go out like this. Business, never personal. Although his lawyers have advised him not to discuss the case until the trial is concluded, Jay-Z did comment in Vibe on the fact that, one year after the stabbing incident, a trial date still had not been set. I feel that if it was any other person, Jay-Z said, it wouldnt still be dragging on this long. Yet Jay-Z maintains a positive attitude. He told Vibe, Everything happens for a reason. Its another learning experience for me.

Jay-Z has worked with some of the biggest stars of the rap and hip-hop scene, including, Lil Kim, Jermaine Dupri, Busta Rhymes, Kelly Price, Doug Wilson, Sean Puffy Combs, Nasheim Myrick, Kid Capri, Mase, Deric Angelettie, Too $hort, Joe Quinde, Sauce Money, Stephen Dent, Big Jaz, and Stevie J.

Despite the mixed reviews of Vol. 3: Life and Times of Shawn Carter and his legal troubles, Jay-Z still shows no signs of retiring from rap. The album was an instant platinum success, emphasizing what a number one seller he still was in the genre he has helped to define. In 2000, Jay-Z released Dynasty: Roc la Familia. He told Vibe, I could make records as long as I have to desire to really dig deep and challenge myself to do it. I can do it for as long as I want. It does not look like Jay-Z be running out of words any time soon.

Selected discography

Singles

In My Lifetime, Ffrr, 1995.

Dead Presidents, Priority, 1996.

Cant Knock the Hustle, Priority 1996.

Feelin, It, Roc-A-Fella/Priority, 1997.

This City Is Mine, Def Jam, 1998.

Money Cash Hoes, Def Jam, 1999.

Can I Get a Rush Hour, BMG International, 1999.

Hard Knock Life, Def Jam, 1999.

Do It Again, Def Jam, 1999; released on Polygram International, 2000.

Things That U Do, Def Jam, 2000.

Anything, Def Jam, 2000.

Albums

Reasonable Doubt, 1996.

In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, 1997.

Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life, 1998

Vol. 3: The Life and Times of Shawn Carter, 1999.

Dynasty: Roc la Familia, 2000.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, June 29, 1996; Nov. 23, 1996; Dec. 28, 1996.

Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, CA), Sept. 7, 2000.

Jet, September 27, 1999.

Los Angeles Times, Dec. 27, 1999; Dec. 31, 1999.

Newsweek, Dec. 13, 1999.

New York Times, Dec. 26, 1999; Dec. 30, 1999; Jan. 1, 2000.

People Weekly, April 5, 1999.

Rolling Stone, Oct. 14, 1999.

San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 6, 2000.

USA Today, Dec. 27, 1999; Jan. 3, 2000.

Vibe, December, 2000.

Village Voice, Dec. 14, 1999.

Washington Post, Dec. 14, 1999; Jan. 2, 2000.

Other

Additional information was obtained on-line at, All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com and MTV Online, http://www.mtv.com.

Laura Hightower and Jennifer M. York

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