Jay-Z is often regarded as one of the most financially successful recording artists in the American music industry; with personal fortunes in the vicinity of $150 million, it can be safely said that his R&B songstress Beyonce sure did find herself a rich guy. But Jay-Z did not always have it this good, born in a lower middle class family in Brooklyn NY as Shawn Corey Carter, Jay-Z went through the grind of youth without his old man by his side; his dad abandoned the family when Shawn was just 12 years old. This needless to say had quite an impact on him, surrounded by the bad company that he kept around at the time, guns and drug peddling were common for him; he has been courting violent behavior and controversy since his teen years when he shot his brother for allegedly stealing his jewelry. Jay-Z did not do time for this violent altercation because he was still a minor and his brother had a small gun shot wound in his shoulder.
He subsequently joined a school called George Westing House Career and Technical Education High School which was the alma mater of choice for other rapping heavy weights such as Busta Rhymes and Notorious B.I.G. Although charges of drug peddling were never slapped on him; he has referred often to selling crack cocaine in his lyrics.
With these legendary rappers in his milieu, it was not long before Jay-Z discovered his own passion for rapping and free styling; his mother stated that as a young boy, Jay-Z would often wake up his siblings to play drum patterns on the kitchen table, so she bought him a boom box which helped to hone his skills and accentuate his interest in creating music.
Shawn took on the stage name Jay-Z because he was often called Jazzy in his neighborhood and also as a tribute to his inspiration Jaz-O; fans could hear a young Jay-Z in many of Jaz-O’s earlier musical offerings.
In order to establish himself as a rapper with some merit, he made a habit of dueling with another rap star who hit the big time eventually, LL Cool J. He though that this would be a wonderful way to get some recording magnates to notice their act. But when recording deals were not forthcoming despite his best efforts, he did the next best thing and footed his own record label, Roc-A–Fella Records with fellow rappers Kareem Biggs and Damon Dash. Although his first official rap single was I can’t get that, it did not garner a lot of attention and he continued working as Big Daddy Kane’s hypeman; Kane later went on to say that he would let Jay-Z and Positive K freestyle so the audiences would continue to enjoy some fantastic music as he changed gears.
Jay-Z’s debut album did not exactly burn up the charts but it did receive critical acclaim which got the rapper noticed, it did eventually achieve platinum status as Jay-Z started garnering a widespread fan following. His contribution to his musical career was In my Lifetime Vol 1; this one also saw Sean Diddy Combs hopping on to the bandwagon as Executive Producer. However, the biggest hit of his career came in the form of: Vol 2... Hard Knock Life. He collaborated with several musical big wigs in this one including Timbaland and Ruff Ryders.
While his career was going great guns, this did not stop the rapper from dissing and getting in trouble with the fellow rap star; as a matter of fact he was arrested for musical community brethren Lance ‘Un’ Riviera in a NY night club. Although he initially denied the charges; later he pleaded guilty and was given three years probation. He continued his spat with several other stars including Noel Gallagher of Oasis Fame. Can't blame Jay-Z for this one as it was entirely Gallagher’s doing who thought that hip hop style icon Jay-Z should not have been invited to a rock style Glastonbury Festival.
Jay-Z’s performance at the festival opener was a huge success. One of his most popular disputes has been with rappers Nas and Prodigy. While his altercations with the former were brought to an amicable end when the two guys shook hands putting an end to their disputes at the culmination of Jay-Z’s I Declare War concert, his public spat with Prodigy continued in the form of both stars dissing each other in their lyrics.
Jay-Z has collaborated with numerous artists through out his career and as a big time recording mogul with his interests in his flagship company Roc-A-Fella in Def Jam recording, he has supported many a young artist and given them an opportunity to showcase their talents. He also worked on several songs with his wife Beyonce, so the boy from Brooklyn sure did carve a space for himself in the music world.