H to the izz-O, V to the izz-A

Jay-Z is a gift to the world

It’s not hard to believe that a man with one billion dollars in net worth not only changed the rap game, but also married one of this decade’s most exciting and iconic artists, Beyoncé Knowles. 

In the words of his hit song Izzo (H.O.V.A), “Ladies and Gentleman, let’s put our hands together for this dynasty,” the dynasty of Shawn Corey Carter.

Nearly fifty years ago, Shawn Corey Carter, better known as Jay-Z, was born on December 4, 1969 in Brooklyn, New York to parents Adnis Reeves and Gloria Carter. 

After Reeves abandoned the family, Shawn and his three siblings were left in the care of mother Carter. 

During this rough childhood and teenage years, Shawn shot his older brother in the shoulder for stealing his jewelry. He sold crack cocaine at the time and was shot at least three times. 

Trying to get her son off the gang-filled streets of New York, Carter gave her son a boombox for birthday, creating that first step towards rap superstardom.

With the gift of the boombox in his possession, Shawn began freestyling throughout his neighborhood, earning the stage name Jay-Z. 

He quickly moved in with the big league in the rap game with heavy hitters such as Big Daddy Kane and LL Cool J. 

This ultimately earned him his first record deal with Roc-A-Fella records. His first two albums, “Reasonable Doubt” and “In My Lifetime Vol. 1” earned him a lot of critical acclaim from critics in the industry primarily for its sharp production.

1998 would be the breakout year for Jay-Z as he released the smash album “Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life,” which featured the hit song, “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem).” 

Becoming the biggest hit of his career at the time, Jay-Z would go on to release “Vol. 3…Life” and “Times of S. Carter” the following year to more commercial success. As the 2000s approached, America witnessed Jay-Z gradually maturing from renowned artist to one of rap’s biggest moguls since P. Diddy.

In the early 2000s, we were treated to great albums such as “The Dynasty: Roc La Familia,” “The Blueprint,” and “The Blueprint2: The Gift & The Curse.” 

In 2003, the entire world was shocked at the announcement that Jay-Z was retiring from the rap game after eight years. 

While a retirement party commenced and the subsequent release of “The Black Album,” Jay-Z took his first step of entrepreneurship by working with Def Jam records. 

Within the year, he was named President of the record company and brought the world artists such as Rihanna, Kanye West, Teairra Marí and more. 

During his tenure, he officially returned to music scene with 2006’s “Kingdom Come” and 2007’s critical and commercial masterpiece “American Gangster.” 

Jay-Z was back on his throne in the rap game and continue on as he resigned as President of Def Jam on New Year’s Day 2008.

As years came and went, Jay-Z married former Destiny’s Child star Beyoncé Knowles on April 4, 2008. This came as a complete surprise to many; most people didn’t even realize that they were engaged, let alone dating for so many years. 

Nevertheless, the duo have been a stronger force than ever and have been one of the music industry’s most influential power couples. They currently have three children named Blue Ivy, Sir and Rumi.

During this past decade, Jay-Z has been able to balance between making new music for the fans and participating in new business ventures. 

Most noticeably, the subscription-based streaming service TIDAL has been growing in popularity among young music listeners. 

In addition, Jay-Z has been consistently releasing music, particularly the highly antipaticated collaborative album “Watch the Throne” with Kanye West and “4:44.”  

Jay-Z has been a powerful figure for the past thirty years. He consistently knows how to overcome in the face of adversity through the use of his talent of rapping. 

Selling over 75 million records, winning nineteen Grammys, owning a record company and even assisting the NFL, among other claims to fame, Jay-Z truly is a great representation of a rags to riches story. 

As we look forward to the next decade and beyond, we must reflect on our past achievements and recognize that we each have a greater calling. 

Most importantly, even when you come from nothing, you can still become such an influential figure on any scale, whether it’s on the big stage or from the small urban streets. 

So the next time you start to feel down on yourself, thinking of all the ways in which the deck was stacked against you: bad parents, bad poverty, bad everything, just remember how a man named Shawn Carter turned everything around for himself and became a household name.

~Elijah Williams, Staff Writer~

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