Jay-Z. The name alone sparks conversation. Whether its his music, his life, family or the controversy that seems to always linger behind him, Sean Carter is no doubt a game changer in the realm of Hip Hop. Since his debut in 1996 with Reasonable Doubt, Jay has become one of the most influential artists in music and arguably the best to ever rap.
Now on the horizon of his 12th studio album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, take a trip into Mr. Carter’s ascent in the turbulent business and artistry of Hip Hop. But in order to understand one of the most powerful people not only in hip hop and music but in the world, you have to look at both Jay’s musical and business ventures.
Reasonable Doubt: The Come Up
Coming onto the scene in ’96, Jay-Z stated his claim in Hip Hop with his debut album, Reasonable Doubt, as one of the best to ever do it. With no major label to back him Jay along with Damon Dash created Roc-A-Fella Records as an independent label. Can’t knock the hustle because Reasonable Doubt is regarded as one of the best and most influential rap albums to ever be released. This was only the beginning to his rise as a leader that would be put to the test in the early turn of the century.
The Blueprint: The Takeover
With the death of New York’s king, Biggie, New York was up for grabs. Jay took aim at the top by sending shots towards other rappers like Mobb Deep and Nas in his track, The Takeover, in his solidifying album, The Blueprint. Hova shook up the scene and kick started a New York takeover of the airwaves in the early 2000s.
The Blueprint was the album that solidified Jay-Z’s career. Receiving a five mic score from The Source, The Blueprint is another classic of the hip hop genre. This album also signaled a change in Jay-Z’s musical sound moving into a more soulful sound thanks to a young newcomer producer named Kanye West.
It’s around this time that Rocawear was established by Jay and Dash moving Jay into the category of an entrepreneur competing with the likes of P. Diddy at the time.
The Black Album: What More Can I Say
Hov had been on top of the game since 1996 by the time he released The Black album in 2003. Hip Hop is usually a young man’s game so with seven years and seven number one albums soon to be eight under his belt, Hovito felt what more could he say and decided to retire from the game. The Black Album would be his last album although he came back in 2006 with Kingdom Come, another number one album. A reflection of and a reflecting on his career, The Back Album is one of Jay’s most important albums depicting his rise to fame and his influence in music. He rightfully boasts and asks in “What More Can I Say,” “I’m supposed to be number one on everybody’s list. Let’s see what happens when I no longer exist.” Jay took a hiatus but in his absence he left Kanye West in his place.
Sean Carter and Kanye West’s relationship started in 2000 when West produced tracks for Jay’s collaborative album, “The Dynasty Roc La Familia.” West would go on to produce tracks for The Blueprint, The Blueprint 2, The Black Album, and many more tracks eventually making an album together. Jay’s relationship with West is possibly one of the most important parts of his career. The Black Album lost its Grammy nomination for best rap album to West’s College Dropout. Jay opened the door for West, and while Jay dropped out of the scene, West went on to carry the Roc’s torch releasing Late Registration, winning multiple Grammy’s and producing tracks for just about everyone in hip hop from Jadakiss to The Game. Kanye is just as if not more influential than Jay-Z but Mr. West owes it all to his “big brother” Mr. Carter.
The return of Hova arrived in 2006 with his 9th studio album, Kingdom Come. Soon after Jay took over Rocawear then sold it a year after in 2007. The year after, he married Beyonce, left the president position of Def Jam and started Roc Nation. With his return to hip hop, Jay-Z made many power moves which would lead to his 2009 release of Blueprint 3 which saw a new mature Jay-Z. Since, he’s been part owner of the Brooklyn Nets and the Barclay Center later selling his share of the Nets to become a sport and talent agent. Like he said in West’s Diamonds Remix, “I’m not a businessman I’m a business, man.” The Blueprint 3 gave Jay his 11th number one studio album beating out Elvis Presley as the solo artist with the most number one albums.
God Emcee: Jay Hova
After the success of The Blueprint 3, Jay teamed with Ye to release Watch the Throne a collaborative album that signaled a change in both artists career. Both rappers are bigger than the genre they’re in, and they’re joint venture displayed it by selling over 400,000 in its first week without leaking online first. There's nothing left for Jay-Z to rap about. Girls, clothes, money, cars, himself, Jay has rapped it all. All that's left is his existential view of the hip hop game, and now that Yeezy has released his follow up from the Throne, Hov is gearing up to release his follow up, Magna Carta Holy Grail.
Being the businessman that he is Jay signed a deal to release the album early on Galaxy smartphones before its official release on July 4. He also managed to change the RIAA rules and the sales of MCHG to Samsung will be counted and the album with be certified platinum upon its release which is a first in any musical genre: A game changer indeed.
Certified platinum when the album dropped? Unheard of, and only something Jay-Z can do. He’d been claiming he was going to make changes and set new rules in music, and with the release of Magna Carta Holy Grail, Jay did just that. Selling a million records to Samsung in an unprecedented free digital download promotion for Galaxy phone users, MCHG already had the credentials to be platinum but the RIAA denied him that status. Shortly after they released a statement saying they were going to change the rules in light of the new release. Hov said he was going to change the rules and did just that. It’s a testament to his power and influence not only in Hip Hop but also in the music world. A business mogul, one of the best musicians to ever touch a mic, a living legend, Jay-Z is the definition of a game changer.