Born Shawn Corey Carter on December 4, 1969, in Brooklyn, New York, Jay-Z began rapping at a young age to evade the world of violence, drugs and poverty in which he lived. In 1989, Jay-Z collaborated on his first song called "The Originators" with his mentor Jaz-O, which resulted in a chance to appear in Yo! MTV Raps. He stayed under the radar until he and his two friends, Kareem Burke and Damon Dash, created their own recording label, Roc-A-Fella Records (1996). Jay-Z then released his debut album Reasonable Doubt, which reached No. 23 on the Billboard chart and put the new rap star on the map.
Jay-Z rose to stardom ensuing the release of his third studio album Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life (1998), which reached No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart. The title single "Hard Knock Life," derived from the Broadway musical Annie (1982), earned him his first Grammy nomination for Best Rap Solo Performance at the 1999 Grammy Awards. As the Rap and Hip-Hop genre began to take over the music industry, Jay-Z's popularity and success continued to thrive with the release of several No. 1 hit singles, including "Big Pimpin'," "Izzo (H.O.V.A)" and "03 Bonnie & Clyde," featuring his future wifey Beyoncé Knowles.
In 2001, Jay-Z released his most critically acclaimed and fan praised album The Blueprint prior to unveiling The Black Album (2003) and his decision to retire from the life of a solo rap mogul. He later revealed his reasoning behind the decision was based on the fact that he strives on competition, but "The game ain't hot. I love when someone makes a hot album and then you've got to make a hot album. I love that. But it ain't hot."
Retirement, however, ended early for Jay-Z when he returned to the rap game with his comeback album Kingdom Come (2006), followed closely by American Gangster (2007) and Blueprint 3 (2010). Around this time, Jay-Z quickly transitioned into a business position, assuming the role of Def Jam Recordings' president and taking control of the recruiting process by personally signing rising artists, including Young Jeezy, Kanye West, Ne-Yo and Rihanna. In late 2007, however, Jay-Z left the label due to the company's unwillingness to makeover their way of business.
Aside from the music aspect, Jay-Z has turned into a successful business man by forming the urban clothing line Rocawear, the production company Roc-A-Fella films, opening the fancy sports bar 40/40 Club in New York and Atlantic City, as well as becoming a part owner of the New Jersey Nets. He later made his biggest investment in love when he married Beyoncé in a small wedding on April 4, 2008.
Jay-Z's most recent projects include, his collaboration with Kanye West on the 2011 album Watch the Throne, which earned many Grammy nominations, and welcoming his daughter Blue Ivy Carter on January 7, 2012.