For all his talk about 99 problems, Jay-Z‘s life looks pretty close to perfect from where we sit. He’s a prolific and admired rapper and record producer, a wildly successful entrepreneur and businessman, he hobnobs with the POTUS—and then he comes home to wifey Beyoncé and baby Blue Ivy. Not too shabby.
Nah, we don’t feel bad for you, son—but we do kind of want to be you sometimes.
Where He Came From:
Shawn Carter (or so it says on his birth certificate) comes from humble beginnings, having started out life in Brooklyn’s Marcy projects. Raised by a single mom under tough circumstances (“with holes in his zapatos”), he went on to sell drugs—something he raps about with the pride of it being (very far) behind him now.
His music career really got underway when he co-created Roc-A-Fella Records (with Damon Dash and Kareem Biggs) in 1995, and he released his debut album a year later.
Flash forward close to two decades, and Jay-Z’s music career includes a zillion major hits, never mind a temporary retirement in 2003.
To highlight some of his smash-hit singles, where would we even start? Let’s go in order: “Hard Knock Life” (1998), “Big Pimpin'” (2000), “03 Bonnie & Clyde” with Beyonce (2002), “99 Problems” (2004), “30 Something” (2007), “Run This Town” with Kanye West andRihanna and “Empire State of Mind” with Alicia Keys (both 2009)—not to mention “Glory” featuring a two-day-old Blue Ivy Carter in 2012.
The dude is an unstoppable hit maker. And latest trick? HisMagna Carta Holy Grail album—which dropped four days early for fans who downloaded his app ahead of time—has already gone platinum.
Like Jay-Z says, “I’m not a businessman—I’m a business, man!” He’s the founder of clothing line Rocawear (with Dash), and made a fortune when he sold it in 2007. He was a part owner of the Brooklyn Nets, owns the 40/40 Club, and was executive producer of the b-ball video gameNBA 2K13. He’s also invested in real estate development with J Hotels.
And because surely those itty bitty projects couldn’t be enough to keep him busy, he announced this spring he’ll be launching his own sports Agency, Roc Nation Sports (and as such relinquishing the Nets).
Although he’s known for partnering and powwowing with major celebrities, he buddied up with perhaps the biggest name of all when he got involved with President Barack Obama‘s campaign, performing for campaign events in both cycles—famously even singing about “99 problems but Mitt [Romney] ain’t one” at a 2012 rally.
Why He’s an Innovator:
If Jay started out as a rapper (well, first a hustler and then a rapper), he’s grown into a larger-than-life superstar who touches nearly every segment of American culture and commerce—from music to retail to sports to politics. And on top of embodying the world “mogul,” he’s a family man, too—setting an example with his seemingly loving life with Bey and Blue IvyFollow @Infocelebrity on Twitter!
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