A product of Marcy Projects in Brooklyn, Shawn Carter's competitive spirit was evident early on. A good basketball player as kid, he couldn't accept losing on the courts. On the rare occasion someone would beat him, he'd insist on continued rematches. He was a promising, bright student growing up. However, his neighborhood was increasingly deteriorating. Streets filled with drugs and hustlers, it was tough to keep kids from getting sucked in. At age 11, the departure of his father prompted him to start writing.
Jay-Z started selling drugs to get by, but never gave up on his craft. Recognizing Jay-Z’s talent, a close friend realized Jay-Z needed someone who could aggressively pursue a record deal. Enter Damon Dash, an aspiring music producer making a name for himself in major circles. After failing to land a record deal, the pair leveraged their mutual knack for both academic and street smarts to launch Roc-A-Fella Records with Damon as the head of business operations. They took all marketing responsibilities into their own hands, shooting a music video for "I Can't Get With That" on their own with about $5,000. With an unconventional marketing style, the duo marketed the record to as many influencers in the music industry they could. Dash would set up rap battles where Jay-Z could show of his skills to the audience they were looking to reach. Finally with the release of "Reasonable Doubt," Jay-Z’s debut album, he made his mark in the music industry. Shortly after, he released the song that would propel him to superstardom, "Hardknock Life." Jay-Z went on to become the biggest star in hip-hop. His skill as a lyricist and his business acumen made for the right combination to deliver a critically acclaimed and commercially successful body of work. While his relationship with Damon solidified its place and influence in hip-hop’s deep-rooted history.
"Belief in oneself and knowing who you are, I mean, that's the foundation for everything great."
“When I was young I had this weird dream that I was running, but I could never go fast enough. Whatever was chasing me was right behind me.” Sean Carter believes in karma, whatever you give out to the world is what you get back. From bringing the power of his voice for political and social economic commentary, to becoming an entrepreneur, to being a style and music icon, It’s been over 20 years since Jay-Z came into the scene. Since then, he’s won Grammy’s, created countless hit records, change the sports agency world and now is tackling the music streaming business.
As his only outlet, he would stay up late writing and beating spoons on the table to make up beats. Until his mom bought him a beatbox, much to the disappointment of this siblings who would have to put up with his late nights working on songs. Inspired by Kurtis Blow, Run DMC and Slick Rick, he began developing his own lyrical approach by studying dictionaries. Because of his fast-rhyming style, his friends starting calling him jazzy, which later morphed in Jay-Z. Early exposure to the music industry came alongside local rapper, Jaz-O, where he appeared in his music video for Hawaiian Sophie. Not only did the album flop, but it was then that he saw a discouraging side of the music industry with record executives trying to change Jaz's persona. So he decided he’d make money other ways.
His entrepreneurial spirit further led to additional ventures, including the launch of clothing brand Roc-A-Wear and a sports and entertainment agency, RocNation. He became part owner of the Brooklyn Nets, and most recently claimed his stake in the music streaming industry with the launch of Tidal. Jay-Z has no doubt been an influence on pop culture, as he claims, “I made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can.” Two decades after the release of his first album, Jay-Z continues to be an influence in American pop culture, and (lucky for us) he shows no sign of slowing down.