Jay-Z is the wealthiest man in hip hop (now that Kanye’s net worth has dropped), and since 1995, Hov has been bringing us quality music. From Reasonable Doubt to 4:44, the Brooklyn rapper has been around since the days of Big Daddy Kane and Biggie. As one of the first artists from the genre to achieve billionaire status, Hov (real name Shawn Carter) is considered to be one of the best rappers of all time.
Born and raised in the drug-infested Marcy Projects, a public housing scheme located in Bedford-Stuyvesant of Brooklyn, Carter was raised by his mother. Brooklyn was a musical hotspot during the late 1980s and early 1990s, especially for hip hop. As an adolescent, Carter attended George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School along with rappers The Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes.
Surrounded by hip hop music since his school days, Carter surprisingly did not immediately gravitate towards music as he saw it as a long-term investment and wanted quick money. Instead, during the late 1980s, Carter sold crack cocaine to earn quick money but still remained connected to local Brooklyn artists such as Jaz-O, The Notorious BIG and Big Daddy Kane
Before Jay-Z exploded onto the scene in the late 1990s, he was an aspiring rapper who was just around. He was ubiquitous and persistent in his aim to prove that he was a certified rapper and did so by constantly adapting and affiliating himself with those more prominent than him.
In his quest to attain exposure, during the 1980’s Jay-Z affiliated himself with Jaz-O. Jaz-O (real name Jonathan Burks) was a Brooklyn rapper, born and raised in the same housing scheme as Jay-Z, the Marcy Houses. Burks knew Jay-Z from his area, and in a bid to help a young Jay-Z, Jaz-O allowed him to become part of his entourage.
While aligned with Jaz-O, Jay-Z even appeared in the video for ‘Hawaiian Sophie’ and during his stint as part of the rapper’s crew, Jay-Z got to network and meet people. One of those people was Big daddy Kane, another bigshot Brooklyn rapper.
After meeting Jay-Z and seeing his skill, Big Daddy Kane took him under his wing, and Carter became Kane’s protégé. Going everywhere with Kane as his young prodigy child, Jay-Z got noticed. In the 1980s and early 90s, Hov frequently appeared on a tv show called Rap City. Following on from this, operating as an independent label in 1995, Roc-A-Fella Records, with the help of Priority Distribution, Jay-Z released his debut album, Reasonable Doubt.
With an unparalleled work rate, releasing an album every year, Carter went on to release: In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 in 1997, Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life in 1998, Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter in 1999, The Dynasty: Roc La Familia in 2000, The Blueprint in 2001 and The Blueprint2: The Gift & the Curse in 2002.
In 2003, Jay-Z began preparations to record what he claimed would be his last album, The Black Album. The album included production from Pharrell, The Neptunes, Timbaland, Kanye West and others. For the album, Carter had a DVD recorded to show the album’s creation process. Below watch some rare footage of Hov making ‘The Black Album’ with Rick Rubin.