Best Known For
Rapper and hip-hop entrepreneur Jay-Z is known for leading Def Jam Records, creating a clothing line and marrying singer Beyoncé Knowles.
Jay-Z - Mini Biography (3:44)
Beyonce - Mini Biography (3:50)
Nicki Minaj - Mini Biography (2:57)
Find out which of these facts are true about Jay-Z and Beyonce's relationship.
Hip-hop artist Jay-Z was born in Brooklyn and began freestyling at an early age. In addition to his musical talents, he's one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world.
Beyonce Knowles catapulted to fame with Destiny's Child and went on to release Grammy award-winning solo albums and a film career with her star turn in "Dreamgirls." She married hip-hop artist Jay-Z in 2008.
Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Nicki Minaj's family moved to Queens, where she attended La Guardia High School. She was introduced to rapper Lil Wayne, who signed her to Young Money Entertainment and launched her career.
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Born Shawn Corey Carter in New York City on December 4, 1969, Jay-Z grew up in Brooklyn's drug-infested Marcy Projects. He used rap as an escape, and appeared on Yo! MTV Raps in 1989. After selling millions of records with his own Roc-A-Fella label, Jay-Z created his own clothing line. He wed popular singer and actress Beyoncé Knowles in 2008.
"I never lost sense of who I was, not for a day, not before I had a record deal, and certainly not after."
"The day that Barack Obama became president, the gangsta became less relevant."
"Maybe I am old fashioned, but a record is a piece of music from start to finish and that’s what I set out to create."
"Performing or playing baseball and basketball took my mind out of my environment. I still do that now."
"There's the gift, there's the spirit, and there's the work—all three have to come together. If one of those things is off, it can stop you from becoming who you were meant to be."
"I've always said that if I became successful, I'd come back here, grab somebody, and show him how it can be done."
"It's harder for me to write music that everyone can relate to because I don't live a typical life anymore."
"Be true to yourself and keep things simple. People complicate things."
"When you make music, you're constantly on the psychiatrist's couch, so to speak."
"I would rather lose on the side of hope than win on the side of the favorite."
Rapper Jay-Z was born Shawn Corey Carter on December 4, 1969, in Brooklyn, New York. "He was the last of my four children," Jay-Z's mother later recalled, "the only one who didn't give me any pain when I gave birth to him, and that's how I knew he was a special child." Jay-Z's father, Adnes Reeves, left the family when Jay-Z was only 11 years old. The young rapper was raised by his mother, Gloria Carter, in Brooklyn's drug-infested Marcy Projects.
During a rough adolescence, detailed in many of his autobiographical songs, Shawn Carter dealt drugs and flirted with gun violence. He attended Eli Whitney High School in Brooklyn, where he was a classmate of the soon-to-be-martyred rap legend Notorious B.I.G. As Jay-Z later remembered his childhood in one of his songs ("December 4th"), "I went to school, got good grades, could behave when I wanted/ But I had demons deep inside that would raise when confronted."
Carter turned to rap at a very young age as an escape from the drugs, violence and poverty that surrounded him in the Marcy Projects. In 1989, he joined the rapper Jaz-O—an older performer who served as a kind of mentor—to record a song called "The Originators," which won the pair an appearance on an episode of Yo! MTV Raps. It was at this point that Shawn Carter embraced the nickname Jay-Z, which was simultaneously an homage to Jaz-O, a play on Carter's childhood nickname of "Jazzy," and a reference to the J/Z subway station near his Brooklyn home.
But even though he had a stage name, Jay-Z remained relatively anonymous until he and two friends, Damon Dash and Kareem Burke, founded their own record label, Roc-A-Fella Records, in 1996. In June of that year, Jay-Z released his debut album, Reasonable Doubt. Although the record only reached No. 23 on the Billboard charts, it is now considered a classic hip-hop album, featuring songs such as "Can't Knock the Hustle," featuring Mary J. Blige, and "Brooklyn's Finest," a collaboration with Notorious B.I.G. Reasonable Doubt established Jay-Z as an emerging star in hip-hop.
Two years later, Jay-Z achieved even broader success with the 1998 album Vol. 2 ... Hard Knock Life. The title track, which famously sampled its chorus from the Broadway musical Annie, became Jay-Z's most popular single to date and won him his first Grammy nomination. "Hard Knock Life" marked the beginning of a fruitful period in which Jay-Z would become the biggest name in hip-hop.
Over the span of those years, the rapper released a slew of No. 1 albums and hit singles. His most popular songs from this period include "Can I Get A ...", "Big Pimpin'", "I Just Wanna Love U", "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" and "03 Bonnie & Clyde", a duet with future bride Beyoncé Knowles.
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