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Birth Name: Shawn Corey Carter

Date of Birth: December 4, 1969

Place of Birth: Brooklyn, New York

Nicknames: Jazzy, Hova, S-dot, Young Hov, Jigga, Jay-Z

Early Life

The man born Shawn Corey Carter grew up in Brooklyn, New York, in the Marcy Houses, a housing project in the borough's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. Jay-Z was the fourth child in his family. He has two sisters: Michelle (a.k.a. Mickey), and Andrea (or Annie). He also has a brother, Eric. Jay-Z underwent some tough times after his father left his mother before the young rapper was even a teen. Without a man in the house, he became a self-supportive youth, turning to the streets. There was not big choice for the child born in the Marcy's house of Brooklyn but to become a hustler to overcome hardships.

"Back then, it was like, I would say it was, like, two things," he says. "It was either you're doin' it or you was movin' it." -Jay-Z

Originally from Brooklyn, Jay-Z attended several different schools with many other rappers. He went to Eli Whitney High School with rapper AZ. When Eli Whitney closed down, he transferred to George Westinghouse Information Technology High School. It was there he attended high school with Busta Rhymes and Christopher Wallace (before he became the Notorious B.I.G.) and got hooked up with local MC Jaz-O. Carter's nickname growing up was "Jazzy," which gave way to Jay-Z when he started rhyming with Jaz-O. (Jay-Z is also a reference to the J/Z subway train, which serviced his Brooklyn neighborhood.) He then transferred again, and went to Trenton Central High School in New Jersey, but never graduated.

"Hova" made his first appearance on MTV way back in 1989, when he appeared with Jaz-O on an episode of "Yo! MTV Raps." Though he was still new to the game, he carried himself with a professionalism and confidence that would carry him through the early part of his career. When no major record label would give him a deal and being aware of the problems many rappers face, Jay-Z decided to become a businessman himself. Jay-Z started selling CDs out of his car along with friends Damon Dash, and Kareem Biggs and soon created Roc-A-Fella Records as their own idependent label.

After striking a deal with Priority to distribute his material, Jay-Z released his 1996 debut album Reasonable Doubt. The album reached number 23 on the Billboard 200, and was well-received by critics. This album would later be included in Rolling Stone's, "500 Greatest Albums of All Time", as #248, and would later reach platinum status. From that point on Jay-Z did nothing but succeed. He continued dropping album after album and worked with a large variety of artists, even those outside the rap/hip-hop culture. Jay-Z has produced a new album every eight months for the last six years. But one interesting fact is that he doesn't write down any of his lyrics before he records a song. Memorization is the one skill and quality that Jay-Z possesses that not many artists possess.

"I used to get ideas and I used to be running around, I used to be outside. I wasn't nowhere where I could write," he says. "Sometimes I used to run in the store, write 'em on a paper bag, put it in my pocket. But you only can put so many paper bags in your pocket, you know - and so I had to start memorizing." -Jay-Z

JAY-Z INTERVIEW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN

Currently

Jay-Z is currently known to be one of the most successful artists in the rap game. Not only is he musically talented and has more money than most people couldn't even dream of, but he also is married to American recording artist, actress and fashion designer Beyonce Knowles. Jay-Z owns his own record label, clothing line (Rocawear), a chunk of the New Jersey Nets basketball team, and movie production company - generating almost half a billion dollars a year in sales. He also owns the New York 40/40 Club Elite sports bar. The artist even finds time for charity too. There is a Shawn Carter Scholarship Funds for poor children from the Marcy district, as well as, "Santa Clause" surprises for Brooklyn kids arranged specially by Jay-Z. He is a respectful artist and worked hard to get to where he is at.

-"I had no aspirations, no plans, no goals, no back-up goals."-Jay-Z

One of the greatest things about rapper Jay-Z is that he didn't know he was going to be famous; instead, as he would say, "he hustled his way into the rap game".

60 Minutes II said last fall,"he's (Jay-Z) living the 21st Century version of the American dream, straight out of the "hood".