Blue Robot

Artist Profile: Jay-Z

Posted by Brandon Vesely on 07/23 at 06:23 PM

Rap legend Jay-Z released the digital version of his newest studio album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, on July 4th and the record became available on store shelves July 8th. Magna Carta Holy Grail is Jay-Z’s twelfth studio album release making him one the most prolific rappers in modern history.

His role as an architect in the development of the modern rap/hip-hop genre is undeniable. The influential artist has sold well over 50 million albums across the globe and has received nearly 20 Grammy Awards.

Despite his phenomenal success and wealth, Jay-Z has not forgotten his humble roots. He regularly takes part in philanthropic efforts, helps up-and-coming artists establish themselves in the industry, and continues to emphasize the value of hard work and community unity.

In honor of the latest addition to Jay-Z’s extensive catalog, let’s take a look back at his roots, road to fame, and the plethora of contributions to the hip-hop genre:

Jay-Z was born Shawn Corey Carter on December 4, 1969 to Adnes Reeves and Gloria Carter. Reeves left the family shortly after Carter’s birth, leaving his mother to raise him and his three siblings on her own. The family lived in the notorious Marcy Houses, a housing project located in Brooklyn.

Jay-Z failed to graduate high school and claims to have been heavily involved in drug trafficking and other illegal activities.

The rapper started out freestyling as a teenager and eventually began writing his own songs. His stage name is derived from a subway line that stops on Marcy Avenue, near his childhood home.

In 1989, Jay-Z teamed up with another local rapper, Jaz O, and landed a spot on Yo! MTV Raps.

He began to establish himself in the industry by forming a record label, Roc-A-Fella-Records, with the help of friends Damon Dash and Kareem Burke in 1996. Shortly after the label’s founding, Jay-Z put out his first studio album, Reasonable Doubt. Reasonable Doubt included popular singles like “Can’t Knock the Hustle” with R&B singer Mary J. Blige. The album quickly became a commercial success. It achieved platinum status, included a guest appearance by the legendary Notorious B.I.G., and reached number 23 on the Billboard 200.

The emerging star followed up his debut with two more albums produced in quick succession, My Lifetime Vol. 1 in 1997, and Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life in 1998. Vol. 1 garnered even more commercial success than his initial release and was a considerably more polished work than his earlier album. Vol. 2 spawned the hit single “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)”, his most successful track yet. “Hard Knock Life” secured the rapper a spot as an industry heavy weight and earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1999.

Both albums achieved platinum status. Vol. 2 would become Jay-Z’s best-selling release of all time and received the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album in 1999.

With his newfound mainstream success, Jay-Z continued to produce music at breakneck speed and began to collaborate with other industry stars.

In 1999 he worked with popular R&B singer Mariah Carey to produce “Heartbreaker” for her album, Rainbow. The track earned Gold status and reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In the early 2000s, Jay-Z released two studio albums, The Blueprint and The Blueprint2. The former featured a guest appearance by up-and-coming star, Eminem, and produced hit singles like “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” and “Girls,Girls, Girls.” The album entered at number one on the Billboard 200 and received critical acclaim for its skillful meshing of hardcore rap and conventional hip-hop.

The Blueprint2: The Gift and the Curse, a two-disc release, also debuted at number one and reflected Jay-Z’s growing musical maturity and movement toward a more mainstream sound. The album included collaborations with a variety of pops tars including his soon-to-be wife Beyoncé Knowles on “03 Bonnie and Clyde”.

With the release of his eighth studio album in 2003, the world-famous rapper announced his retirement as a solo rapper. Despite the surprise and disappointment of listeners and the rap industry as a whole, The Black Album was another chart-topper and included the hit singles “Change Clothes,” “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” and “99 Problems.”

After the release of his “last album,” Jay-Z began to pursue other interests. He collaborated with artists from a variety of genres, most notably teaming up with rockers Linkin Park to release 2004’s Collision Course.

Nonetheless, the rapper’s hiatus from solo work did not last as long as he had suggested.

In 2006, Jay-Z reemerged as a solo artist with the bombshell release of Kingdom Come, his first release in nearly three years. The album was an instant commercial success and sold over half a million copies during the first week of its release. The album contained the popular single, “Show Me What You Got.”

Since Kingdom Come, Jay-Z has continued his work as a studio and performance artist, releasing three more studio albums and performing at a variety of festivals and events, including the Glastonbury Festival, the Roskilde Festival, and the O2 Wireless Festival, all of which were in Europe.

In spite of his brief hiatus, Jay-Z has continued his legacy as a rap innovator. He continues to grow stylistically, draw on a wide range of influences, and play a leading role in the musical direction of the hip-hop industry as a whole.

He married long-time love interest Beyoncé Knowles in April of 2008 and the couple had their first child, Blue Ivy, on January 7, 2012. Additionally, Jay-Z has shown considerable concern for social issues. He has willingly contributed to philanthropic endeavors, focusing his efforts on the global water shortage, Hurricane Katrina Relief, and voter registration.

Be sure to check out his newest release, Magna Carta Holy Grail, on iTunes, Spotify, or in stores.

{name} Author: Brandon Vesely
Bio: Brandon Vesely is originally from the Pittsburgh area and is currently a junior majoring in Public Relations and Spanish at Penn State. In his free time he enjoys reading, writing, biking, and spending time outdoors. His musical interests are wide-ranging and include a variety of alternative genres including post-hardcore, indie, noise pop, and pop punk. Some of his favorite artists are Bayside, Yeasayer, Phantogram, and Fireworks.

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