Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Jake Frost
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Stanton Daily. Posted by Jake Frost
December 4, 1969
Currently Known For:
Rapper and businessman
99 Problems, Encore, Takeover
“I’m not a ‘Business-Man’! I’m a Business… man! Let me handle my business, damn!” One of the most successful rappers (and just musicians in general) of all-time, Jay-Z wasn’t always bound for superstardom. Born on December 4, 1969 as Shawn Carter, Jay-Z grew up in the projects in Brooklyn where he was heading down a rough path. While growing up, Jay-Z had said that he was selling drugs to get by and try to make money.
At the time, Jay-Z was also starting to get his rap career off the ground, saying that he was just nine years old when he started rapping. He would listen to records and try to freestyle about anything that he could. “I started trying it, and it was a gift,” he said. “I guess in the beginning I really took it for granted, it came so easy.”
Jay-Z has said that growing up in the projects was difficult, comparing it to crabs in a barrel. “They pull each other down, trying to get up,” he said. “They just grabbing at whatever they can. People are at the point where they’re ready to do anything so it’s very dangerous. And you’re living in close quarters so you have to deal with danger every day, from every angle.”
One dark part of Jay-Z’s past included when he shot his brother in the shoulder when he was just 12 years old. He admitted that it was a time when people in the projects were doing anything they could to get their hands on crack cocaine so that they could sell it, and said that there were a lot of fights and he even had an Uzi. He started to deal drugs on his own when he was 16 years old and continued for six years.
“I started out as a really small guy on the street, but after a while I did OK and that made it even harder to leave (the projects). I felt like I was making even more than the rappers. I had a Lexus with TVs in the car, I felt like my life was better than theirs. You might’ve had a rope chain but so did I.”
Jay-Z would find a way out from the projects when he got involved in rapping himself, appearing in the background of several different songs in the 1990s. Still, his solo career hadn’t been going all that well, as he was simply trying to sell his own CDs from his own car. He would create his own record label known as Roc-A-Fella Records, and was able to land a deal with a distributor that helped him find his first success.
That would come in 1996 when he released his first album “Reasonable Doubt”, which included included the hit song “Dead Presidents”. The next year, he would follow up his success with “In My Lifetime, Vol.1” and then in 1998 had the biggest success to that point with the album “Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life”. Jay-Z had quickly established himself as one of the biggest names in rap music, and there was no turning back from there.
Releasing albums yet again each year over the next several years, Jay-Z was pumping out hits left and right that included the critically acclaimed “The Blueprint”. In 2004, Jay-Z would sell Roc-A-Fella Records to Def Jam Records, becoming the president of the label. It was then that Jay-Z would have his first retirement, but that wouldn’t last long as he was back on stage the next year and released his first song following the retirement in 2006 from the album “Kingdom Come”.
Coming out of retirement has proven to be fruitful for Jay-Z, who has also been involved in a lot of successful business ventures. An entrepreneur that has been involved in clothing, marketing, nightclubs and more, Jay-Z’s net worth has soared since he was living in the projects of Brooklyn, and it’s now estimated that he’s worth nearly $1 billion.
Then, of course, there’s the relationship that he’s had with singer Beyonce over the more than a decade now. The two had collaborated on several songs before publicly announcing that they were a couple, and in 2008 they announced that they were married. The two have been one of the most powerful couples in music, and their personal lives have been a massive topic of interest, including their children. So far, the couple has had three children, giving birth to Blue Ivy Carter in 2012, and then twins Rumi and Sir in June 2017.
It’s been a total rag to riches story for Jay-Z, who said that rapping was how he was able to get out of the projects. “At some point, you have to have an exit strategy, because your window is very small; you’re going to get locked up or you’re going to die,” he said. These days, Jay-Z is enjoying being a public figure, saying “We’ve got a really charmed life, so how can we complain?” He also says that he’s not motivated about money. “I don’t sit around with my friends and talk about money, ever. On a record, that’s different.”