Formed Roc-a-Fella Records with Damon Dash and Kareem "Biggs" Burke
Jay Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart and received nine Grammy nominations
One of the biggest names in rap and hip-hop, Jay Z has had more No. 1 albums as a solo artist on the Billboard 200 album chart than any other solo artist, thanks to his prolific songwriting career that has seen hit collaborations with the estimable likes of Kanye West, Rihanna, Mariah Carey, R. Kelly, Pharrell Williams, Justin Timberlake, Foxy Brown, Big Sean, Ja Rule, Notorious B.I.G., Missy Elliott, DMX, Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, Foxy Brown, Mary J. Blige, and wife Beyonce. Indeed, Jay Z has had a songwriting hand in such major hits as Beyonce's "Crazy in Love," in which he was featured; his "Empire State of Mind," which featured Alicia Keys; Rihanna's "Umbrella," which he was featured in; Timberlake's "Suit & Tie," on which he was featured; his "Run This Town," which featured West and Rihanna; Carey's "Heartbreaker," on which he was featured; and his own "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)."
Born Shawn Corey Carter in 1969 in Brooklyn, Jay Z was raised in the borough's drug-infested Marcy Projects—an upbringing that would surface in the lyrics of his autobiographical songs. One of them, "December 4th," dealt with has admitted "demons deep inside" while attending Brooklyn's Eli Whitney High School, where he was a classmate of fellow rap legend Notorious B.I.G. Sure enough, he became a street hustler before entering the rap music industry and forming Roc-a-Fella Records with Damon Dash and Kareem "Biggs" Burke. He brought a focus on flow to his rap styling and showed the soul music influences of the likes of Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway, which he experienced via his parents' record collection.
Jay Z steadily became one of the biggest-selling recording artists ever, with over 100 million units sold. He's received 21 Grammy Awards, with three of his albums—Reasonable Doubt, The Blueprint (2001) and The Black Album (2003)—placing in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list. With the release of his 2006 album Kingdom Come—following a short-lived retirement from recording due, he said, to a lack of competition in the hip-hop genre—he shifted into a more rock- and soul-influenced sound, following it with two more albums, American Gangster (2007) and Blueprint 3 (2010) that likewise explored more topical subjects like Hurricane Katrina and the election of Barack Obama.
Released in 2013, Jay Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart and received nine Grammy nominations—more than any other artist. Its track "Holy Grail" featuring Justin Timberlake won for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, while "Drunk in Love," which he co-wrote for Beyonce and on which he was featured, took in two more Grammys the following year (Best R&B Performance, Best R&B Song).
Many of Jay-Z's song lyrics—and the stories behind them--have since appeared in Decoded, his 2010 memoir.