Artist: Jay Z
Photographer: Justin Jay https://www.justinjay.com
Date: Saturday, December 13, 2003
Words By Elliott Wilson
RESPECT. Archive: Issue #17 Legends feature published in 2013
It’s hard to put Jay-Z’s career in historical context when he’s still making mo’ history. From 1996’s Reasonable Doubt to 2013’s Magna Carta Holy Grail, it feels like Shawn Corey Carter has consistently been at the forefront of our culture. No other rapper has a catalog with this much depth, and Jay’s rhymes continue to inspire new generations of hip-hop fans.
Jay’s third album, 1998’s Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life, was his superstar breakthrough selling 5 million copies. With a hot hand, Hova reignited the rap tour market by taking fellow hip-hop heavyweights, DMX, Method Man and Redman on the road. Ten years later after ending a stint as President of Def Jam, Jay inked a huge $150 million deal with concert giant Live Nation.
Jay’s success has been immense and he thought about retiring with the release of 2003’s The Black Album, but thankfully he came to his senses. Although he stumbled on his 2006 Kingdom Come comeback, Hov got his swagger back with the Denzel Washington movie–inspired American Gangster album. Amazingly, it took Hov 11 studio albums to finally have a No. 1 pop single, The Blueprint 3’s Big Apple anthem, “Empire State of Mind.”
Jay surpassed Elvis and has 13 No. 1 albums—that’s second only to The Beatles who have 19. He’s built record labels (Roc-a-fella), clothing companies (Roc-a-wear) and nightclubs (The 40/40 Club). He’s recently divested his ownership stake of the Brooklyn Nets to pursue becoming a sports agent. Roc Nation Sports is a subdivision of Roc Nation, a full-service entertainment company whose roster includes Rihanna, J.Cole and Wale.
For all his accomplishments, Jay remains driven to prove that besides his tremendous business acumen he’s a true artist who will one day undisputedly be recognized as the Greatest MC of All-Time. I wouldn’t bet against him. Legend.
“He leads by example. Everything that he does, he makes good decisions. One thing that people don’t understand is that he’s, like, the hardest-working person in music, period.” —Wale on Jay-Z, MTV, November 2009
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