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Jay-Z lived near Brooklyn in New York City and his father abandoned him. He was an aggressive child at the age of 12, and shot his brother at the shoulder for being guilty of stealing his jewelry. He attended high school but did not graduate. His mother revealed that he was passionate about music from the very start and earned the nickname "JAZZY,” from those he was close to. Modified, this became his stage name. Jay-Z tried to get a much sought-after record deal after beating LL Cool J in a rap battle and started working as a freestyle rapper on 1994’s Big Daddy Kane album. "I can't get with that", was his first ever rap single with accompanying music video.
Unable to get any assistance from the major labels, Jay-Z along with Damon Dah and Kareem Biggs founded Roc-a-Fella Records in 1995. His first ever music album titled “Reasonable Doubt” was well received and appreciated by the people. His second album, released in 1997 “My Lifetime, Vol. 1.” This was an even greater success and both albums went platinum. His next album, “Hard Knock Life,” was the greatest hit of his entire career. This album of Jay-Z got over five million sales and won a Grammy award. In 1999, Jay-Z's next album titled, “Life and Times of S. Carter,” also was a huge success. That year he was accused of stabbing record executive Lance “Un” Rivera in the stomach. He allegedly used the commotion in a club as a cover for his actions, which he later expressed regret for. He promised never to lose control again. His next album, titles "The Dynasty: Roc La Familila", introduced some new producers like Just Blaze and Bink who later on achieved considerable success and fame.
His song, Takeover, was considered to be a feud with Nas who gave response to this in the form of his song named Ether. This resulted in a controversial feud between the two rappers. Jay-Z's sixth album was also released in 2001, entitled “The Blueprint.” Released amidst the tragic events of September 11, it was not as popular as it could have been with guest rapper Eminem featured on the album. The follow up album entitled, “”The Blueprint: The Gift and The Curse” surpassed its predecessor. “Excuse Me Miss “was one of the major hit singles of this album. “The Blueprint” and “The Blueprint: The Gift and The Curse” were rereleased as a single volume entitled "The Blueprint 2.1".
In 2003, Jay-Z announced that he was working on his eighth album "The Black Album", after his return from a trip to the Southern France. This album included hit songs like "Change Clothes", "What more can i say" and "99 problems". In the November of the same year, Jay-Z performed in a concert Madison Square Garden as his retirement party. Notable performers in the concert included Missy Elliot, Freeway, Foxy Brown, R. Kelly and Tupac Shakur. His retirement did not mean that it was the end to his activities in the music industry, merely a shift to focus on various other projects while still making concert appearances and movies.
In light of this, he appeared in Collision Course, in collaboration with Linkin Park. The track named Numb/Encore won a Grammy award for him. He then tried his luck in the production field as the executive producer of The Rising Tide, which was the debut album of Fort Minor. In 2004, he became the president of Def Jam Records and became the CEO of his own Roc A Fella and Def Jam Records.
In October 27, 2005, he featured in New York's concert Powerhouse entitled as "I declare War". Knowing his previous record of fighting rap battles, people speculated and expected him to rage war against his fellow rappers. However, surprisingly, this concert ended in Jay-Z and his former rival Nas, shaking hands and sharing the stage. This astounding act shocked many hip-hop fans of both rappers.
After his retirement, he returned to the industry in 2006 with an album titled "Kingdom Come". His single "Show Me What You Got" became a reason for FBI's investigation after it leaked on to the internet prior to its scheduled release. The album's release was of significant importance to his career, as it became his selling album in the first week of its release. Jay-Z's tenth album was released in 2007 with the title of “American Gangster.” In December 2008, he resigned as president of Def Jam Records.
A controversy surfaced when Jay-Z was nominated for appearing in 2008's Glastonbury Festival. This move was widely criticized especially when the tickets were not sold as expected. Later on, the sales increased but the critics maintained that a rock band should have been chosen to headline the festival. His success in the festival as a performer, however, diluted much of the criticism. He also appeared in many other festivals in the same year including Hove Festival in Norway, Roskilde Festival in Denmark, 02 Wireless Festival in London.
The next year, he parted his ways with Def Jam and announced his own imprint names Roc Nation working with Live Nation. He also announces that he would start his very own StarRoc Records with the production team of Stargate.
His eleventh album was released in September 2009, two days prior to the scheduled date because of its huge anticipation among the fans in North America. Six days later, it was released on the international front and became Number 1 in no time at all. This album, "The Blueprint 3" earned praise in the Shave magazine as well.
Jay-Z also worked alongside Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith to make the play Fela, which celebrated the work of Fela Kuti. Jay-Z declared that Kuti's life and his work has been an inspiration to him and that was the main reason he decided to work for the play in his memory.
Recently, Jay-Z has worked with Eminem for the “Home and Home” tour as well. He also worked with Kanye West for a five-track venture. He also announced to be the main support act for the U2 360 tour starting in Auckland, New Zealand and moving to Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and finally Perth. In the late 2010, it was confirmed that Jay-Z would be soon releasing a new album in the coming spring as a follow up to Blueprint 3.
Jay-Z continues to be a favorite rapper all over the world and all his work continues to be appreciated by the masses. People are always anticipating his next move and this promising star has yet a lot to offer to the rap industry. He surely is the one of his kind and people seem to keep on wanting more and more of him.