Born: December 4, 1969, Brooklyn, New York
Brought up in Brooklyn's Marcy Projects, Jay-Z got his break in the music business in the late '80s when a fellow Marcy resident, The Jaz (later Big Jaz), got a record deal and had Jay-Z guest on a few tracks.
When The Jaz's deal came to an end, Jay-Z reverted to hustling in the streets to make money. This period gave him experiences which formed the basis for much of his later material.
During this time he did keep his hand in the rap game, appearing on a track with Big Daddy Kane and with the group Original Flavor, but it wasn't until the mid-90's that Jay-Z's focus really returned to hip-hop.
In 1996 he teamed up with Damon Dash and Kareem Burke to start a new label, . The label's first single, 'Dead Presidents' was a big hit as was his debut album, "Reasonable Doubt".
Jay-Z then steadily built on this success, releasing album after album and bringing through new artists on his label, as well as expanding into merchandising, clothing and other sources of revenue.
In 2003, at the peak of his career, Jay-Z released what he claimed would be his last album, "The Black Album" to international acclaim.
In 2006 he came back from retirement to release the album "Kingdom Come". It was well received by the public, selling over a million copies, but garnered some criticism from hip-hop fans in regards to Jay-Z's new 'mature' style.
A year later he released the concept album "American Gangster". Jay-Z was allegedly inspired to make the album after watching the film of the same name, and the album focuses on similar themes as of the film.