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I got 99 problems, but a bitch ain't one.
Jay-Z arose from the ashes left by Biggie Smalls' death and the subsequent battle between him and Nas. Though he isn't a Gangsta Rapper, Jay-Z has perfected the Boastful Rap, even calling himself Jay Hova. And he gets away with it. His rhymes are sharp, his beats
are were jazz-like, and his ego is towering.
Shawn Corey Carter was born on December 4, 1969. Originally from Marcy Houses housing project in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City, he was abandoned by his father and at 12 years old, he shot his brother in the shoulder for stealing his jewelry. Jay-Z attended Eli Whitney High School in Brooklyn, along with rapper AZ, until it was closed down. After that he attended George Westinghouse Information Technology High School in Downtown Brooklyn, which fellow rappers The Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes also attended, and Trenton Central High School in Trenton, New Jersey, but did not graduate. In his music he refers to having been involved in selling crack cocaine.
According to his mother, Gloria Carter, a young Jay-Z used to wake his siblings up at night banging out drum patterns on the kitchen table. Eventually, she bought him a boom box for his birthday, sparking his interest in music. He began freestyling, writing lyrics, and followed the music of many artists popular at the time. In his neighborhood, Carter was known as "Jazzy", a nickname that eventually developed into his stage name, "Jay-Z". The moniker is also an homage to his musical mentor, Jaz-O, as well as to the J/Z subway lines that have a stop at Marcy Avenue in Brooklyn.
Jay-Z can briefly be heard on several of Jaz-O's early recordings in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including "The Originators" and "Hawaiian Sophie". Jay-Z was also involved in and won several battles with rapper LL Cool J in the early 90's as part of a plan to get a sought-after record deal. He first became known to a wide audience by being featured on the posse cut "Show and Prove" on the 1994 Big Daddy Kane album Daddy's Home. Jay-Z has been referred to as Big Daddy Kane's hype man during this period, though Kane explains that he didn't fill the traditional hype man role, instead Jay-Z "basically made cameo appearances on stage. When I would leave the stage to go change outfits, I would bring out Jay-Z and Positive K and let them freestyle until I came back to the stage". He made an appearance on a popular song by Big L, "Da Graveyard", and on Mic Geronimo's "Time to Build", which also featured early appearances by DMX, and Ja Rule in 1995. His first official rap single was called "I Can't Get With That", for which he released a music video. From the beginning of his professional recording career, when no major label gave him a record deal, Jay-Z, Damon Dash, and Kareem Biggs created Roc-A-Fella Records as their own independent label. After striking a deal with Priority to distribute his material, Jay-Z released his 1996 debut album Reasonable Doubt with beats from acclaimed producers such as DJ Premier and Super DJ Clark Kent and a notable appearance by The Notorious B.I.G. The album went on to become a hip-hop classic and helped put both Jay-Z and Roc-A-Fella Records on the proverbial map.
- Reasonable Doubt (1996)
- In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997)
- Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life (1998)
- Vol. 3... Life and Times of S. Carter (1999)
- The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (2000)
- The Blueprint (2001)
- The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse (2002)
- The Best of Both Worlds (with R. Kelly) (2002)
- The Black Album (2003)
- Collision Course (with Linkin Park) (2004)
- Kingdom Come (2006)
- American Gangster (2007)
- The Blueprint 3 (2009)
- Watch The Throne (with Kanye West) (2011)
Jay-Z provides examples of:
- Author Tract: "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)".
- "Ignorant Shit" was his views on both the Don Imus situation and people preferring his more superficial music over his rather large body of lyrically deft work.
- Big Applesauce: "Empire State of Mind".
- Completely Missing the Point: The title of "'03 Bonnie & Clyde" is a reference to a line in the 2Pac song that it (heavily) samples, "Me & My Girlfriend". The difference? Jay's talking about his actual girlfriend. Pac's talking about his gun.
- In the song "All I Need" he recites the hook, but plays it straight.
- A more subtle reference is made to the title of the Eminem song "'97 Bonnie & Clyde"... which is about him disposing of his wife's corpse with his daughter.
- Concept Album: The American Gangster album is inspired by the movie of the same name. It's based around the path he may have followed if he had continued to sell drugs as opposed to becoming a rapper.
- Crapsack World: The main idea of "Where I'm From" is to highlight how dangerous it is in the Marcy projects in Brooklyn, New York, which was where he grew up.
- Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: A good portion of the "American Gangster" album. This trope is invoked by name during the Album's introduction.
- Distinct Double Album: The Blueprint 2: The Gift And The Curse was spread across two discs, one labeled "The Gift" and the other labeled "The Curse" (hence the title). The Gift (blue label) is a lighter, more radio-friendly disc with quite a few guest stars, while the material on The Curse (black label) is a bit darker and has less guests. Interestingly, the album's reception was mixed because many felt that it had too much filler (a common criticism of double albums, including Life After Death and All Eyez On Me), so Jay-Z took the best bits from both the Gift and the Curse, put them on one disc, and released it as The Blueprint 2.1.
- Downer Ending: "Success" and "Fallin" on the "American Gangster" album. "Meet The Parents" off of the "The Blueprint 2"
- "D'Evils" from 'Reasonable Doubt' has a "downer" feel to it. Could be a downer ending considering it's a violent fallout between two friends.
- "Coming of Age [Da Sequel]", for the same reasons as "D'Evils".
- Dueling Stars Album: The Best of Both Worlds with R.Kelly and Watch The Throne with Kanye West
- Expository Hairstyle Change: How do you know Jay's working on a new album? He stops getting his hair cut. The bigger the fro, the more we have to wait.
- Evil Former Friend: Damon Dash, Beanie Sigel, Jaz-O, etc.
- Final Battle: After concluding his feud with Nas he hasn't engaged in a beef since.
- Actually, he is in a small feud with Joe Budden, a former Def Jam artist. "Reminder" off of The Blueprint 3 includes a line dissing Joe Budden.
- Hatedom: Created a divide in the hip hop community for his leaning towards radio hits and other commercial antics.
- Heterosexual Life Partners: Memphis Bleek
- As long as Jay's alive he's a millionaire.
- And even if Jay dies he's in his will somewhere
- Ho Yay: Ever notice how fond he is/was of his old friend The Notorious B.I.G.?
- I Call It Vera: His little two-two, he call it Peggy Sue.
- I Have Many Names: Jay-Z, Jigga, Jay-Hova, Hove, Young H.O, Young Vito, Jiggaman, S-Dot, President Carter, etc.
- The Illuminati: Lately uses more and more Masonic references, such as the pyramid and the all-seeing eye, especially on his streetwear merchandise, or during concerts.
- The hand symbol is actually meant to be a diamond, not a pyramid. Also, the increase in Masonic symbols is to Troll his haters.
- Karma Houdini: If you believe his former partners at Roc-a-Fella Records, Jay stole the brand and allied himself with Def Jam behind their backs. Despite his shady dealings, Jay-Z's public image never suffered, where Damon Dash and Kareem "Biggs" Burke have faded into obscurity.
- Lampshaded Double Entendre: Several. He even calls himself the "Monster of the Double Entendre."
- Legacy Character: He named himself after his mentor, Jaz-O.
- Actually he named himself Jay-z because "Jazzy" was a popular slang term when he began rapping.
- Also a possible shoutout to the "J" and "Z" trains that pass through Marcy Ave
- Magnum Opus: "Reasonable Doubt" and "The Blueprint."
- Not Actually the Ultimate Question: "Who are you?" -- Nardwuar just wanted him to say his name.
- Odd Friendship: Jay-Z and Beyonce often go on double dates with Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow.
- Rage Against the Mentor: After years of respect and even a few features on songs, Jay-Z and Jaz-O began a beef that has gone on for years with no signs of ever resolving. Almost anytime Jay mentions Jaz is to diss him.
- His own former proteges, most notably Beanie Sigel and Peedi Crakk, have also called Jay out for what they feel is snaky behavior. Many of the artists who sided with Jay over Dame in the Roc-A-Fella split feel he didn't do nearly enough to help them out while president at Def Jam; this is usually the only thing they have to talk about during their interviews.
- Rap Power Vacuum: Many cynical fans feel this is how Jay-Z rose to prominence.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Jay-Z is the passionate life-loving boaster, while Nas is the quieter, angrier and darker rebel.
- Reformed Rake: Married to Beyonce Knowles.
- The Mentor: To Memphis Bleek, Beanie Sigel, State Property, Kanye West, Rihanna and Young Jeezy.
- The Rival: To Nas, though he has expressed respect and they always seemed to treat each other as a Worthy Opponent.
- Sassy Black Woman: Featured in "Girls Girls Girls". She don't care if you rap, you better R-E-S-P-E-C-T her.
- Sharp-Dressed Man /BadassInANiceSuit: When not in Hawaiian Tees and depending on his Face or Heel status.
- Shout-Out: He has a tendency to quote his peers and rappers that inspired him. Though detractors claim this is simply a lack of creativity.
- Stealth Pun: All over the place.
- Supergroup: He and Kanye recently announced that they are officially going to tour under the name "The Throne" to promote their new album.
- Previously he was a member of "Murder Inc." with DMX and Ja Rule. Earlier than that he and Biggie formed a group called "The Commission" that included themselves, Charli Baltimore, Lil Cease and Puffy.
- Ten-Minute Retirement: After The Black Album, though no one really expected it to last in the first place.
- Earlier than that he was supposed to retire after the release of Reasonable Doubt so basically his entire discography has been taking place during his "retirement".
- Too Soon: "A Dream" (his tribute to The Notorious B.I.G.) includes a sampled verse from Biggie's classic "Juicy," but the line "Blow up like the World Trade" (referencing the 1992 attack) is edited out. However, this doesn't stop people who know and love the original from keeping the line in when singing along.
- This Is for Emphasis, Bitch: Jay's ad-lib at the end of "Dirt off Your Shoulder/Lying from You" with Linkin Park.
- Other good examples of this are in the first verse of "Off That" and the third verse of "Say Hello"
- True Art Is Incomprehensible: Invoked and ridiculed, when he's talking about Nas on the 2nd verse of Blueprint:
"Cause you don't understand him, it don't mean that he nice
It just means you don't understand all the bullshit that he write"
- Verbal Tic: Especially when featured as a guest rapper, he'll often prefix his verse with his signature grunt (or by yelling "Young") as a way of saying "brace yourself, Jay-Z is about to go in"
- He's been sprinkling the grunt in a lot more lately too; cf. "Made In America" on Watch the Throne.