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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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Jay-Z's most acclaimed album of this period was The Blueprint (2001), which would later land on many music critics' lists of the best albums of the decade.
In 2003, Jay-Z shocked the hip-hop world by releasing The Black Album and announcing that it would be his last solo record before retirement. Asked to explain his sudden exit from rap, Jay-Z said that he once derived inspiration from trying to outshine other great MCs, but had simply gotten bored due to a lack of competition. "The game ain't hot," he said. "I love when someone makes a hot album and then you've got to make a hot album. I love that. But it ain't hot."
During his hiatus from rapping, Jay-Z turned his attention to the business side of music, becoming president of Def Jam Recordings. As president of Def Jam, Jay-Z signed such popular acts as Rihanna, Ne-Yo and Young Jeezy and helped effect Kanye West's transition from producer to bestselling recording artist. But his reign at the venerable hip-hop label wasn't all smooth sailing; Jay-Z resigned as Def Jam's president in 2007, complaining about the company's resistance to change from ineffectual business models. "You have record executives who've been sitting in their office for 20 years because of one act," he lamented.
Jay-Z's other, ongoing business ventures include the popular urban clothing line Rocawear and Roc-A-Fella films. He also owns the 40/40 Club, an upscale sports bar with locations in New York and Atlantic City, and is a part owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball franchise. As Jay-Z once rapped about his business empire, "I'm not a businessman/ I'm a business, man."
In 2006, Jay-Z ended his retirement from making music, releasing the new album Kingdom Come. He soon released two more albums: American Gangster in 2007 and Blueprint 3 in 2010. This trio of later albums marked a significant departure from Jay-Z's earlier sound, incorporating stronger rock and soul influences in their production and offering lyrics tackling such mature subjects as the response to Hurricane Katrina; Barack Obama's 2008 election; and the perils of fame and fortune. Jay-Z says he's trying to adapt his music to befit his own middle age. "There's not a lot of people who have come of age in rap because it's only 30 years old," he says. "As more people come of age, hopefully the topics get broader and then the audience will stay around longer."
In 2008, Jay-Z signed a $150 million contract with the concert promotion company Live Nation. This super deal created a joint venture called Roc Nation, an entertainment company that handles nearly all aspects of its artists' careers. In addition to Jay-Z himself, Roc Nation manages Willow Smith and J. Cole among others.
More recently, Jay-Z proved that he had both commercial and critical staying power. He teamed up with another famous member of rap royalty, Kanye West, for 2011's Watch the Throne. The album proved to be a triple hit, topping the rap, R&B and pop charts that August.
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