1995-1998: Roc-A-Fella Records
Founded in 1995 by Jay Z, Dame Dash and Biggs, Roc-A-Fella Records was born with the release of Jay’s Reasonable Doubt album when he was struggling to find any labels willing to back the record. Initially Hov started off as the only artist attached to Roc-A-Fella, with his album slowly gaining popularity. Success came for Roc-A-Fella with the backing of Biggie’s producer DJ Clark Kent, and DJ Ski. Following this, Hova gained further recognition with his appearance on B.I.G.’s Life After Death album.
As Jay Z grew so did the label, which led to further signees. Memphis Bleek signed to the Roc in 1999, and the following year, the label took on Beanie Sigel. The noughties saw some huge signings for Roc-A-Fella, with Cam’ron, M.O.P. and Ol’ Dirty Bastard all coming on board.
In 2002, after releasing the The Blueprint 2, Jay Z spoke of retiring whilst Dame Dash put his energy into new signings. It was also around this time that Dash and Jigga started to have their differences.
Jay Z made a smart business move, when it was revealed he had become the President of Def Jam Records. Hov, Dash and Burke all sold their 50% of the label to Def Jam. This meant that whilst Jay had managed to oust both Dash and Burke, he simultaneously took control of the artists acquired by Def Jam from Roc-A-Fella.
Hov’s venture took many twists and turns following this as Dash created his own label, under Def Jam. Dash and his acquired artists showed visible animosity towards to Jay Z. Dash would eventually leave Def Jam Records which dissolved his label, the Dame Dash Music Group. Jay Z would eventually step down from his Def Jam position as well, with the release of American Gangsta in 2007.
Jay Z began his next lucrative business move in 1999 as he once again joined forces with Damon Dash to launch a clothing line known as Rocawear. A bold move taken only three years after the release of his debut album Reasonable Doubt, Jay and Dash created a brand that would grow to be a staple in the urban community. In fact, they were far ahead of their time, as nowadays it's become commonplace for rappers to start up their own fashion label.
With over ten years of existence, Jay helped create a clothing label that is now well-known in the land of hip hop (despite not being extremely popular in our present day). The brand has grown into a massive entity covering the scope of clothing for children, juniors, accessories, fragrances, swimwear and much more.
Hov made a very profitable move in 2007 when he sold the Rocawear for a hefty $204 million. The rapper ensured that he would maintain some sort of control as he moved into the role of Chief Creative Officer ensuring that he is still able to oversee the company today. The company is still growing as it has expanded internationally and is thought to bring in $700million in sales annually.
2002: Carol’s Daughter
Who would have thought that Jay Z would take interest in a company specializing in beauty products? Well, sometimes the most profitable business ventures are where you least expect them to be.
The founder of Carol’s Daughter, Lisa Price established the company back in 1999 which is now known for creating natural beauty products. Struggling with her business, she was encouraged to meet with Steve Stoute, a former music industry executive. He helped get some big-time names to take interest in the line. Together with the likes of Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith, Jay Z invested $10 million, which was plenty of capital for the company.
The influence of Hov and others led the likes of Sephora and Macy’s to sell Carol’s Daughter’s products. The company has also been featured on Oprah and The Tyra Banks Show and now successfully grosses around $40-$50 million a year, giving Jay a very decent amount of money.
2003: The 40/40 Club
In 2003, Jay Z decided to spend his millions to create a high-end sports bar with his business partner Juan Perez. Wanting to ensure the place had an air of exclusivity; he named the place The 40/40 Club bringing the term form Major League Baseball where, on rare occasions, players make 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases.
Jay opened the first 40/40 Club in New York City on 6 West 25 Street. The club served American food, brought live music, celebrity patrons, contained 5 VIP lounges and plenty of sports memorabilia-- they were not attempting to attract your Average Joe.
Of course, many musicians and celebrities have moved into the territory of creating bars and clubs. However not many can say that they have chain like Jigga does.
The 40/40 Club has been a sound investment for Carter. In 2005, the second 40/40 Club opened up in Atlantic City (although, that one did end up shutting down last year), and the third in Las Vegas in 2007. Today the club is in existence in 8 different locations which includes Tokyo and Macau. The newest location of the 40/40 Club is situated in the Barclays Center in New York.
2003: Reebok and Nokia Endorsements
2003 was a huge year for Jay Z as the deals came flooding in.
Before the trend of rappers aligning themselves with kicks became the norm, Jay Z made a landmark four-year deal with Reebok releasing his own line called the S.Carter sneaker.
Carter was the first non-athlete to have a line with the brand. The shoe itself was based on Gucci’s Tennis 84 Lace Up sneaker which created a fair amount of hype at the time. The marketing on the S.Carters were put into full force which took place in the form of large billboard campaigns with Jay Z on the front with the quote, “I am what I am”. There was also that famous commercial which saw Jay alongside 50 Cent spitting their own verses about their own Reebok endorsements (watch it below).
In the same year Hov also signed an agreement with Nokia. Jay partnered with the phone company to release the special edition of the Nokia 330 alongside The Black Album. The version called the “Black Phone” helped to increase the awareness of his album complete with the phone being loaded with the record’s tracks, ringtones, and wallpapers. At the price of $124, the buyer also received weekly text messages and monthly voice messages from the Jigga Man himself.
2006: HP, Budweiser and Armand de Brignac
Jay Z added more endorsements to his list when Steve Stoute paired him up with Hewlett Packard. Hov was said to have become interested in their computers after seeing the impact that it made on the students who were using them from his own Shawn Carter Scholarship Fund. The businessman in him ensured that the image of the HP was up to scratch before starring in a famous commercial where all we saw was Jay’s hands, accompanied with some impressive graphics. The ad showed the world the ways in which the PC enabled the rapper to do his various errands and work.
Jigga Man also joined forces with Budweiser in the same year. Wanting to dispel the image that rappers only drink champagne, he moved into the position of Co-Brand Director for Budweiser Select. We can only imagine how much money he received for his involvement with the beer company’s marketing, development, radio ads, print campaigns and much more.
But of course, no rapper can deny their love for champagne. Hov had always been partial to a bottle of Cristal. However his favouritism for it came to a swift end when the owner of Louis Roederer (producers of Cristal), Frederic Rouzac made comments about disliking hip hop’s love for the champagne. Following this very public spout, Jay gave his backing to another champagne, Armand de Brignac through a deal with NYC’s Sovereign Brands. The champagne, easily recognizable for its flashy opaque, metallic bottles, gained much popularity when it appeared in Hova’s “Show Me What You Got” video. Claims have been made that Jay earns a staggering $4 million a year for his promotional work.
Taking his entrepreneurial flair to the vehicle industry, Jay partnered with GMC to announce the release of the limited edition GMC Yukun Denali SUV. The car was coated in Hov’s own signature color called “Jay-Z Blue”, yes, before the birth of his beloved daughter Blue Ivy. The project took two years to dream up and was revealed at the GM Style Event as Jay Z continued to make leaps forward in his business acumen.
2008: Roc Nation and Translation
With all his gained knowledge and experience both in business and the music industry, Jay Z gave running a music label another shot when he partnered with Live Nation to launch Roc Nation. The label, which is distributed by Universal Music Group has done pretty well since its establishment, adding locations in the UK and across Europe.
Roc Nation is referenced as a “full-service entertainment company” with a team of songwriters, producers, engineers and much more. Jay has a 50/50 partnership over the label with Stargate. The first official signee to the Roc was none other than Fayetteville’s finest J Cole. Following this Hov also signed up Rita Ora, Alexis Jordan and many other artists. Roc Nation also manages many huge stars, such as Rihanna, Meek Mill, Wale and Shakira. The success of Jay Z’s Roc Nation is no doubt testament to the fact that last year those under the label collectively clocked up 16 Grammy nominations.
In the same year, Jay Z also partnered with Steve Stoute to expand the stamp of his advertising agency Translation Advertising which helps reaching consumers through a cultural focus.
The following year, Jay Z looked to Broadway. Along with Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, he became co-producer to the award winning production of "Fela!". Hov was driven to get involved in this project after seeing it off-Broadway. The rapper was said to be deeply inspired by Fela Kuti’s story which influenced his decision. “It was an inspiration, about the power of music.” (MTV News)
2011: Life + Times Website
In 2011, Jay Z launched his very own lifestyle website. Called Life + Times, the site was created so fans could gain a better insight into the rapper’s own taste in music, fashion, sports and much more. The idea was that Hov would share himself on the site. The site was not all about the Jigga Man as expected, but rather Life + Times sheds light on new music, the latest in TV, and brings you some very dope interviews. In addition, from time-to-time, Jay does his very own posts on the site (such as that one time he bought 100 copies of Nipsey Hussle's Crenshaw mixtape, and posted the photo to the blog).
2012: Bing, Duracell Powermat, Made In America Festival, Brooklyn Nets, NBA 2K13, D’USSE’
If you haven’t yet been convinced by the business insight of Jay Z, you will be when learning about his deal with Bing. He teamed up with the search engine to help him promote his book "Decoded." The result was a genius plan executed flawlessly.
Each of "Decoded"’s 320 pages were placed in various locations mainly around New York City but also internationally 30 days before the release of the book. Each page related to a location that was important in Hov’s life. Clues to the locations were released via Twitter, Facebook and the location could then be put into Bing’s search and mapping technologies. Committed fans could then piece the book together and gain credit. Pages were placed in some very unique locations such as in a custom-made Gucci jacket and covering a Cadillac.
The results were phenomenal. Jay’s fans on his Facebook page increased by 1 million whilst "Decoded" was a best-seller for 19 weeks. Bing also increased its visits by 11.7%.
Hov also signed a multi-year global agreement with Duracell and Powermat Technologies endorsing the Powermat wireless device that keeps smartphones charged. Lending his face and voice to the campaign, he starred in a commercial where he received a call from his beloved B.
2012 also saw the launch of the rapper’s Made In America Festival, using his connections to get Budweiser on board.
The event took place in Philadelphia during Labor Day Weekend. Bringing in music that crossed numerous genres, the headline acts were Jay himself and Pearl Jam. In its first year, it brought in $5 million with 80,000 festival goers.
The rapper also started off his business interest in sports buying 1/15 of 1% of the newly professional Brooklyn Nets for $1 million. As a native New Yorker, the team was close to Jay’s heart. He was said to have been involved in designing the team logo, and giving his say on the team’s recruits.
The following year, Hov went on to sell his shares to Jason Kidd for an estimated $350,000, due to the conflict it created with setting up yet another business venture, Roc Nation Sports.
Jay Z’s interest in basketball wasn’t just limited to the professional game. He also signed up to be executive producer for the video game NBA 2K13. Here he was credited for bringing in the 1992 and 2012 US Men’s National Teams, and was also said to have hand-picked every song on the sound track.
If that wasn’t enough for the year, Jay also became the spokesperson for D’USSE, a premium VSOP cognac. The rapper revved up the competition for the likes of Hennessy and Remy Martin with his backing. Jay Z is frequently seen sipping on the $45 beverage, including while he was at the 2013 Grammy Awards.
2013: Cohiba Comador, Samsung and Roc Nation Sports
In 2013, Hova dabbled with another of his favorite items, the cigar. Teaming with Cohiba, he released a premium cigar called Comador. The cigar took 2 years to research, and is made in the Dominican Republic using tobacco grown in notable regions. This cigar really is “premium”, priced at $350 and $999.
Probably the deal that took the year by storm though was Hov's partnership with Samsung for the release of his album Magna Carta Holy Grail. 72 hours ahead of its official release date, Jay Z offered 1 million owners of the various models of the Samung Galaxy a chance to get their hands on the record using a free app. The deal is estimated to have been worth $30 million and was revolutionary for the music industry.
Last year, Jigga also made sure to extend his reach on sports by launching Roc Nation Sports in partnership with Creative Artists Agency. Jay Z essentially wanted to bring the model he had used with Roc Nation to sports, “Aiming to elevating athletes’ career on a global scale both on and off the field”.