Jay Z: Influential Black Leaders

Jay Z: Influential Black Leaders

Because he’s saving hip-hop while handling his business


If hip-hop had a Mount Rushmore, there are three men whose faces would be chiseled in granite: The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur and Jay Z. Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac were both killed in their mid-20s. Jay Z is now 47. Maybe he wasn’t supposed to be the best, but that’s what he became. Hov got flow though he’s no Big and Pac, but he’s close / How I’m ‘posed to win, they got me fightin’ ghosts, he rapped on New York City’s Hot 97 radio station in 2006, the same year MTV named him the greatest MC of all time.

Shawn Corey Carter grew up in the Marcy Projects in Brooklyn, New York, where his mother, Gloria Carter, remembers he’d be in the kitchen of their apartment “beating on the table and rapping into the wee hours of the morning” until she bought him his first boom box. But he’s never been an artist, he says — always just a hustler. He never graduated from high school and sold crack cocaine until he arrived as Jay Z with his 1996 debut album, Reasonable Doubt.

If Jay Z is the greatest, it’s not just because the only others in his league are ghosts. It’s because when it looked like hip-hop itself was dead, Jay Z brought it back to life. His 13 Billboard No. 1 albums are the most by any solo artist in history. And they’re sprinkled with timeless tracks, from 2004’s “99 Problems,” a look at what it’s like to drive while black in America, to 2009’s “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune),” which single-handedly demolished a wave of music, to “N—-s in Paris,” one of the hottest party records in the last decade.

And as he climbed the charts, Jay Z also became an influential businessman with an estimated net worth of $610 million. He is an owner of Tidal, a streaming music service. He co-founded Roc-A-Fella Records, served as president of Def Jam Records, founded entertainment company Roc Nation, and became part-owner of the Brooklyn Nets before giving up his stake in the NBA franchise to found his own sports agency, Roc Nation Sports.

Oh, and his wife is Beyoncé. He has lived the American dream of reinvention and second chances. I’m not a businessman. I’m a business, man. Now let me handle my business, damn! That’s hip-hop. – Aaron Dodson

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