You know the lyrics. He owns three American Music Awards, six BET Awards, fourteen Grammys, and multiple international awards on his way to being the 10th most successful artist of the 2000s, and 88th greatest of all time according to Rolling Stone.
You know the businessman. He co-owns the famous 40/40 Club in New York, is part-owner of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, former CEO of Def Jam Recordings, and one of the three original founders of Roc-A-Fella Records. He also is co-brand director for Budweiser Select, investor in J Hotels, and executive producer of the hit video game, NBA 2K13.
You know the celebrity. He’s married to fellow music superstar Beyonce Knowles. TIME magazine names the couple the world’s most powerful couple in 2006 and Forbes ranked them as Hollywood’s top-earning couple in 2009 with a combined total of $162 million.
But do you know Shawn Corey Carter, aka Jay-Z, the man?
Jay-Z was raised in Brooklyn by his mother Gloria after his father walked out on them when he was 12 years old. Jay-Z turned to life on the street and drug-peddling – doing what he had to in order to survive. He began freestyling at an early age and it was obvious the young man had talent. After shadowing Big Daddy Kane in the early 90s, Jay-Z decided to break out on his own. He founded independent Roc-a-Fella Records because no label would give him a record deal. His first album, Reasonable Doubt, reached the 23rd spot on the Billboard 2000 in 1996.
Jay-Z continued to produce successful albums and hit after chart-topping hit. Away from the recording studio Jay-Z focused his financial efforts on giving back. He partnered with the UN in 1996 to raise awareness and funds to combat the global water shortage. Jay-Z followed that up by giving $1 million to the American Red Cross’ efforts after Hurricane Katrina. Jay-Z also established The Shawn Carter Foundation in 2002 to financially assist those wishing to further their education.
The one characteristic that has been consistent in Jay-Z’s life is that he is a man determined to succeed his way. You can’t pigeon-hole the rapper. You can’t tell the businessman what can’t be done. He’s going to find a way. He has grown from a poor childhood to one of America’s most successful entrepreneurs by doing things his way.