JAY-Z | Biography, Songs, Empire State of Mind, Beyonce, & Facts (2024)

American rapper and entrepreneur

verifiedCite

While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies.Please refer to the appropriate style manual or other sources if you have any questions.

Select Citation Style

Feedback

Thank you for your feedback

Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

External Websites

Britannica Websites

Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students.

  • JAY-Z - Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up)

Print

verifiedCite

While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies.Please refer to the appropriate style manual or other sources if you have any questions.

Select Citation Style

Feedback

Thank you for your feedback

Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

External Websites

Britannica Websites

Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students.

  • JAY-Z - Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up)

Also known as: Jay Z, Jay-Z, Shawn Corey Carter

Written and fact-checked by

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica Encyclopaedia Britannica's editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree. They write new content and verify and edit content received from contributors.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica

Last Updated: Article History

Jay-Z

See all media

Previously spelled:
Jay-Z or Jay Z
Original name:
Shawn Corey Carter
Born:
December 4, 1969, Brooklyn, New York, U.S. (age 53)
Awards And Honors:
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (2021)
Grammy Award (2014)
Grammy Award (2014)
Grammy Award (2013)
Grammy Award (2013)
Grammy Award (2012)
Grammy Award (2012)
Grammy Award (2012)
Grammy Award (2011)
Grammy Award (2010)
Grammy Award (2010)
Grammy Award (2010)
Grammy Award (2009)
Grammy Award (2009)
Grammy Award (2009)
Grammy Award (2008)
Grammy Award (2007)
Grammy Award (2005)
Grammy Award (2004)
Grammy Award (2003)
Grammy Award (2003)
Grammy Award (1998)
Notable Works:
“4:44”
“Magna Carta Holy Grail”
“Reasonable Doubt”
Notable Family Members:
spouse Beyoncé

See all related content →

Recent News

June 22, 2024, 3:13 AM ET (USA Today)

Jay Z and Roc Nation take sides on school vouchers

June 17, 2024, 6:20 PM ET (AP)

That cool Tony Awards moment when Jay-Z joined Alicia Keys? Turns out it wasn't live

June 17, 2024, 6:18 PM ET (AP)

Tonys moments: Hillary Clinton and (sort of) Jay-Z in the house, strides for women and a late upset

June 16, 2024, 11:10 PM ET (AP)

2024 Tonys hand big awards to Daniel Radcliffe, Jeremy Strong, Danya Taymor and Shaina Taub

JAY-Z (born December 4, 1969, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.) is an American rapper and entrepreneur, one of the most influential figures in hip-hop in the 1990s and early 21st century.

Shawn Carter grew up in Brooklyn’s often dangerous Marcy Projects, where he was raised mainly by his mother. His firsthand experience with illicit drug dealing would inform his lyrics when he began rapping under the stage name Jazzy, soon shortened to Jay-Z (a name that may also have been derived from the proximity of the J and Z subway lines to the Marcy Projects). Jay-Z and two friends founded their own company, Roc-A-Fella Records, to release his debut album, Reasonable Doubt (1996), which eventually sold more than a million copies in the United States.

Britannica Quiz2000s Music Quiz

A string of successful albums followed at a rate of at least one per year through 2003. Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life (1998) not only was the first of Jay-Z’s releases to top the Billboard 200 album chart but also won him his first Grammy Award, for best rap album. The critically acclaimed The Blueprint (2001), featuring the triumphant hit “Izzo (H.O.V.A.),” solidified his status as one of the preeminent voices in hip-hop at the dawn of the 21st century. Shortly after its release, Jay-Z pleaded guilty to assault relating to a 1999 nightclub stabbing and received three years’ probation, but the incident did little to derail his career. Ahead of the release of The Black Album (2003), however, Jay-Z announced his retirement as a performer. The ostensible farewell recording proved to be one of his most popular, with the brash single “99 Problems,” produced by Rick Rubin, attracting considerable attention. In 2004 he assumed the presidency of Def Jam Recordings, making him one of the most highly placed African American executives in the recording industry at the time.

Postretirement, Jay-Z stayed remarkably active in music. He collaborated with the rock group Linkin Park in 2004, and he appeared as a guest vocalist on the recordings of numerous other artists, including Kanye West, whose career he had helped foster, and Beyoncé, whom he had begun dating. (The two were married in 2008.) Jay-Z also developed a large portfolio of business ventures and investments, including a film-production company, a clothing line, and a stake in the New Jersey Nets of the National Basketball Association, which he later helped relocate to his hometown of Brooklyn. He formally returned to recording in 2006 with Kingdom Come. In 2007, shortly after releasing the album American Gangster, he stepped down as Def Jam president. He founded a new label, Roc Nation, in 2008, and it soon became a full-service entertainment conglomerate.

Jay-Z proved that he remained one of rap’s most-bankable acts when he embarked on a highly successful tour with Mary J. Blige in 2008. The following year he released The Blueprint 3, which bore the sound of some of his most frequent producers, including West and Timbaland. The album generated such hits as “Empire State of Mind,” a musical love letter to New York City adorned with soaring guest vocals by Alicia Keys, and the determined “Run This Town,” which featured West and Rihanna. Both songs won Grammy Awards, as did two other singles from the album. Watch the Throne (2011), an ambitious and highly regarded collaboration with West, proved to be similarly fruitful, with the singles “Otis,” “nigg*s in Paris,” and “No Church in the Wild” capturing Grammys as well. In between the two releases, Jay-Z published a memoir, Decoded (2010).

Jay Z (having dropped the hyphen from his name) returned in 2013 with Magna Carta Holy Grail, which, in an exclusive deal with Samsung, was made available for free to users of the company’s smartphones several days ahead of its official release. Although the album, on which the rapper reflected on his massive wealth and fame, was greeted with mostly lukewarm reviews, it became his 13th release to land at number one on the Billboard 200. It also produced two Grammy wins: one for best rap/sung collaboration for “Holy Grail” and another for best music video for “Suit & Tie.” He received two more Grammys a year later for his collaboration on Beyoncé’s song “Drunk in Love.”

Special 67% offer for students! Finish the semester strong with Britannica.

Learn More

In 2017 JAY-Z (having capitalized the letters and reinstated the hyphen in his name) released his 13th studio solo album, 4:44, an extremely candid album that was, in part, a response to Beyoncé’s Lemonade (2016), on which she accused her husband of adultery. He admitted to infidelity on various tracks and also addressed racism and politics. The couple’s albums were both released exclusively on TIDAL—a subscription-based music streaming service that JAY-Z owned alongside other artists. JAY-Z had acquired the service in 2015 when he purchased its parent, the Norwegian technology company Aspiro AB. Also in 2017 JAY-Z became the first rapper to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2018 he and Beyoncé, billed as the Carters, unveiled the collaborative effort Everything Is Love, for which they won the Grammy for best urban contemporary album. In 2021 JAY-Z was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia BritannicaThis article was most recently revised and updated by Encyclopaedia Britannica.

JAY-Z | Biography, Songs, Empire State of Mind, Beyonce, & Facts (2024)

References

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Dong Thiel

Last Updated:

Views: 6281

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (79 voted)

Reviews: 94% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Dong Thiel

Birthday: 2001-07-14

Address: 2865 Kasha Unions, West Corrinne, AK 05708-1071

Phone: +3512198379449

Job: Design Planner

Hobby: Graffiti, Foreign language learning, Gambling, Metalworking, Rowing, Sculling, Sewing

Introduction: My name is Dong Thiel, I am a brainy, happy, tasty, lively, splendid, talented, cooperative person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.