Jay-Z A.K.A. Shawn Carter is an American hip-hop rapper, producer and entrepreneur. He is married to R&B singer Beyoncé Knowles, they have a daughter; Blue Ivy Carter. He was born in December 1969 in Brooklyn, New York City. He attended Eli Whitney High School with future rapper AZ, George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School, together with the future rappers Busta Rhymes and The Notorious B.I.G. in Brooklyn and Trenton High School in New Jersey. The stage name Jay-Z evolved from his childhood nickname Jazzy, the name of his mentor; Jaz-O and the J/Z subway train line which had a station in his neighbourhood.
Carter co-founded Roc-A-Fella Records in 1995 when he failed to secure a recording contract to release his first album. Shawn Carter released his debut album Reasonable Doubt on June 25th 1996. It reached no.23 on the Billboard Hot 200. Christopher Wallace A.K.A. The Notorious B.I.G. featured on Reasonable Doubt.
In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 was Jay-Z’s second album, released on November 4th 1997 and charting at no.3 on the US Billboard 200. It produced four singles; Who You Wit, (Always Be My) Sunshine, The City Is Mine and Wishing on a Star.
The following year Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life was released on the 29th of September. Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life hit no.1 on the Billboard 200 and produced 4 singles. The second single Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem) charted highly; peaking at 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at 2 on the UK Singles Chart.
On the 28/12/1999 Vol. 3... The Life and Times of S. Carter was released, again garnering a number 1 charting on the US Billboard 200.
Roc-A-Fella Records released Dynasty: Roc La Familia on the last day of October 2000. The project had started to produce a compilation between the signed artists, but only featured Jay-Z as the main artist and had Memphis Bleek and Beanie Sigel from Roc-A-Fella featuring. The album produced a- by now standard for a Jay-Z album- no.1 charting on the US Billboard 200. The album’s lead single, I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me) reached 11th place on the Billboard Hot 100.
The Blueprint became Shawn Carter’s 6th studio album and was the 4th to top the Billboard 200 albums chart. It was released on the 11th of September 2001. The entire track listing was penned inside 48 hours and only features another artist, Eminem, in one song. Kanye West was a co-producer of the album, giving the then up and coming artist a major break. The lead single Izzo (H.O.V.A.) became a hit, charting at no.8 on the Billboard Hot 100, while Girls, Girls, Girls; Jigga That Nigga and Song Cry also charted.
It was followed up by The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse on November 12th 2002, becoming Shawn Carter’s 5th studio album in a row to reach no.1 on the Billboard 200. It was a double album and as the subtitle invokes the 1st disc was upbeat while the second was darker. The lead single '03 Bonnie & Clyde was the first time Jay-Z had collaborated with future wife Beyoncé Knowles and the first time she had performed as a solo artist. The single was released on October 10th 2002, peaking at 4th on the Billboard Hot 100, 2nd on the UK Singles Chart and charted in the top 10 in 10 countries. Excuse Me Miss, the 3rd single, reached no.8 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In 2003, the album was re-released as The Blueprint 2.1, as a single CD with some tracks changed and the number of tracks halved.
The same year The Black Album was published as Jay-Z’s 8th and final album before retirement and was the 5th album to reach no.1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was released on November 13th. It produced 3 singles Change Clothes, Dirt Off Your Shoulder and 99 Problems which charted at 10, 5 and 30 on the Billboard Hot 100, respectively.
Twelve days later, Jay-Z performed his farewell concert at Madison Square Garden arena in New York. Acts including Beyoncé, Pharrell Williams, R. Kelly, Memphis Bleek, Missy Elliot, Foxy Brown and The Roots performed in support.
Linkin Park and Shawn Carter teamed up to form the collaborative EP Collision Course in July 2004. Carter originally was to do a mashup with an artist of his choice for MTV’s Mashup Show. However, the mashup remixes that Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park recorded for him were so good that they decided to make an EP and re-record their songs to fit better together. The six tracks were recorded in 4 days. The Collision Course EP is only the second EP to reach no.1 on the Billboard 200, after being released on November 30th 2004. The lead single Numb/Encore reached no.20 on the Billboard Hot 100, no.14 on the UK Singles chart, no.5 in both France and The Netherlands and no.1 in Ireland. The song won a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.
Jay-Z came out of retirement to be the headline act for the I Declare War Powerhouse concert by New York’s Power 105.1 radio station in October 2005.
Kingdom Come was touted as Jay-Z’s comeback 9th album and was preceded by the single Show Me What You Got at the end of October 2006. The single reached no.8 on the Billboard Hot 100. Kingdom Come obtained the usual no.1 placing on the Billboard 200 when it came out that November.
American Gangster followed up Kingdom Come as the 10th album of the hip-hop superstar. This would be a concept album, inspired by the Ridley Scott film of the same name and deals with Jay-Z’s childhood in the Marcy Houses Projects in Brooklyn and his time as a drug dealer. It was released on the 6th of November 2007. American Gangster charted at no.1 on the Billboard 200, giving Shawn Carter the joint-record for the most U.S. number 1 albums, along with Elvis Presley.
Jay-Z became the first hip-hop artist to be the headline Glastonbury Festival, which traditionally has a guitar-oriented sound. His performance on the 2nd of February 2008 was well received for an unusual genre at the festival. Carter also performed at festivals including the O2 Wireless Festival, Roskilde Festival and supported Kanye West at Madison Square Garden arena.
The Blueprint 3 completed a trilogy of Shawn Carter’s albums and was his 11th album overall. It was released on the 8th of September 2009 and hit no.1 on the US Billboard 200 and Canadian Albums Chart and 4th on the UK Singles Chart. Singles from The Blueprint 3 included D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune), Run This Town, Empire State Of Mind and On to the Next One. Run This Town and Empire State of Mind achieved a number 2 and number 1 charting on the US Billboard 200, respectively.
Carter and Kanye West released a collaboration album in August 2011 titled Watch the Throne. The project started as a 5 track EP but became a full length album. It reached no.1 on the US Billboard 200 and reached a top 10 charting in 16 other countries. Its singles include Otis, H•A•M and Niggas In Paris- which reached no.5 on the Billboard Hot 100.