His real name is Shawn Corey Carter. The name Jay-Z evolved from the nickname of his childhood, when he was called "Jazzy." Jay-Z is also an homage to his musical mentor, Jaz-O, as well as to the J/Z subway lines that have a stop where he grew up, Marcy Avenue in Brooklyn. He is also known by a variety of stage names including S. Carter, Jigga, Hova, J-Hova, Hov, and Young Hov.
Jay-Z holds the record for most chart-topping albums by a solo artist with his 11 #1 albums on the Billboard 200. The previous record belonged to Elvis Presley with 10 #1s.
After announcing his retirement from rapping in 2003, Jay-Z embarked on a number of business projects and turned into one of the most successful entrepreneurs among Hip Hop artists. His Reebok S.Carter shoe collection became the fastest selling sneaker in Reebok history and the first time a non-athlete has ever had a signature shoe.
He was invited to headline the Glastonbury Festival in 2008. This caused a public furor, mainly fueled by Noel Gallagher from Oasis who slammed organizers for inviting a rap star to a festival "built on a tradition of guitar music." Jay-Z responded by opening his headline set with a cover of Oasis' "Wonderwall
Jay-Z and his wife Beyoncé topped the Forbes magazine list of Hollywood's top-earning couples for two consecutive years in 2009 and 2010, acing out such fellow duos as Brangelina, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith and David and Victoria Beckham.
In an interview with NPR, Jay shared how he began putting down rhymes: "I would run into the corner store, the bodega, and just grab a paper bag or buy juice — anything just to get a paper bag. And I'd write the words on the paper bag and stuff these ideas in my pocket until I got back. Then I would transfer them into the notebook. As I got further and further away from home and my notebook, I had to memorize these rhymes — longer and longer and longer. By the time I got to record my first album, I was 26, I didn't need pen or paper — my memory had been trained just to listen to a song, think of the words, and lay them to tape"
Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes
and Biggie Smalls all attended Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School in Brooklyn, New York at the same time.
Jay revealed during a Twitter conversation in 2013 that he hasn't eaten breakfast cereal for a while, but if he had to choose a favourite one, he would pick Captain Crunch. "Berry Crunch," to be exact.
Hova officially announced on July 18, 2013 that he was dropping the hyphen, and is now known as Jay Z. According to the rapper, he actually dropped the dash three years earlier to "change with the times." Despite iTunes crediting Watch the Throne to Kanye West and JAY Z back in 2011, nobody picked up on it at the time.
Jay was involved in selling crack cocaine during his teen years, before he took up rapping. Asked by Vanity Fair November 2013 whether he felt guilty about selling crack, Jay replied: "Not until later, when I realized the effects on the community. I started looking at the community on the whole, but in the beginning, no. I was thinking about surviving. I was thinking about improving my situation. I was thinking about buying clothes."
Jay-Z often writes songs about his tough early days living in Brooklyn's Marcy Projects. On his 1997 cut "You Must Love Me" for instance, Hova describes the day he shot his drug-addicted older brother in the shoulder for stealing his jewelry. He was only 12 years old at the time.
Empire co-creator Danny Strong based the show's character Lucious Lyon on Jay Z, drawing from his past criminal life and rise to stardom through hip-hop.
Speaking to David Letterman during an April 2018 episode of his Netflix series My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, Jay-Z revealed how a teacher, Renee Lowden, encouraged his love of words.
"I had a sixth grade teacher, her name was Ms. Lowden, and I just loved the class so much," he recalled. "I'd read the dictionary and just (because of) my love of words, I just connected with her."
In 2019, Forbes declared him the first billionaire rapper, with his champagne company, Armand de Brignac, worth $310 million, and his cognac company, D'Ussé, at $100 million. His art collection was valued at $70 million.