June 25th, 2016 marks a significant date for one of the greatest rappers of all time. 20 years ago on the 25th of June 1996, Jay Z released his first album to the world, starting his legendary career, beginning with Reasonable Doubt.
Born and raised in the projects of Brooklyn, New York, Jay Z has made a name for himself, leading to a remarkable career. As an American rapper, entrepreneur, and investor, Jay Z is one of the most financially successful hip-hop artists in America. He is one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time, having sold more than 100 million records, while receiving 21 Grammy Awards for his musical work, and numerous additional nominations. Three of his albums, Reasonable Doubt (1996), The Blueprint (2001), and The Black Album (2003), are considered landmarks in the genre with all being featured in Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
From the beginning, Jay Z was a man of strength, power, and faith. With no major label to give him a record deal, he sold CDs out of his car. With Damon Dash and Kareem Biggs, he created Roc-A-Fella Records as their own independent label in 1995. Luck was on their side when they were offered a distribution deal with Priority. Jay Z released his debut album Reasonable Doubt with beats from well-known producers such as Super DJ Clark Kent and DJ Premier; The Notorious B.I.G. made an appearance as well. The album reached number 23 on the Billboard 200 and was favored greatly by critics leading to the albums eventual platinum status. The album was re-issued January 26, 1999.
His incredible rapping ability took the music industry by storm following his debut album. Jay Z has revamped rapping into a whole new style with his “master of flow,” soulful and honest lyrics. His second album In My Lifetime, Vol 1., produced by Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs was explained to be made during one of the worst periods of is life following the death of The Notorious B.I.G. It was a personal revelation for Jay Z as he told his stories of his difficult upbringing. Vol. 2 followed, becoming his most commercially successful album; it was certified 5x Platinum in the United States and has to date sold over five million copies. The album went on to win a Grammy Award shortly after.
Released during the wake of September 11 attacks, The Blueprint managed to debut at number one of Billboard 200, selling more than 427,000 units. Being written in only two days, The Blueprint was quite a success, having been certified 2x Platinum in the United States. Jay Z was applauded for its production and the balance of “mainstream” and “hardcore” rap, receiving recognition from both artists.
Roc-A-Fella Records was not only the launching pad for Jay Z’s stardom, it created a starting point for his Roc Nation and, in turn, the careers of countless artists and producers. However, a falling out between Jay Z and Dame Dash would forever threaten the future of the company and the careers of two men who started out good friends and turned into toxic business partners. A conflict of interest had ultimately led to the breakup. However, it remains unclear as to how the feud started but what we do know is that Dame Dash is still angry over it to this day. The two had parted and went their separate ways.
Fast forwarding to present time, Jay Z has continued to release notable albums such as The Blueprint 2 and 3, Watch the Throne, and his last one, Magna Carta Holy Grail, which was released in 2013. Along with great album success, Jay Z has had major triumph through touring, with his and Beyonce’s On The Run tour grossing over $100 million in ticket sales and selling over 90% capacity for the 19 North American shows. Currently, it is said that he will be releasing a new album this coming year. Rumor has it that his album will be his response to his wife, the Queen B herself, Beyoncé’s recent release of Lemonade.
As well as maintaining an incredible music career, Jay Z has focused on establishing a business empire spanning across a variety of industries ranging from clothing lines beverages, real estate, sport teams, and records labels. In an interview, he states, “my brands are an extensions of me. They’re close to me. It’s not like running GM, where there’s no emotional attachment.”
To name a few business ventures, Jay Z and Damon Dash founded the brand Rocawear, clothing and accessories that are sold at Urban Outfitters. He co-owns the 40/40 Club, an upscale bar that started in New York City and has since expanded to Atlantic City and Chicago. In 2005, Jay Z became an investor in Carol’s Daughter, a line of beauty products and in September of 2013, his stake in Barclays Center was sold for $1.5 million.
That same 2013 year, Jay Z launched his own sports agency, Roc Nation Sports, focusing on the representations of various professional athletes and is credited as the executive producer of the basketball video game NBA 2K13. Most recently, Jay Z completed the $56 million acquisition of Aspiro, a Norwegian media technology company that operates the subscription-based music streaming service, Tidal. Being the main shareholder of Tidal, Jay Z’s main idea of the service is to bring major revenue streams back to the music artists themselves as the idea of an artist-own streaming platform.
Through the past 20 years, Jay Z has managed to create an extraordinary career for himself, paving the way for future rappers. He has done the unthinkable, building himself from the ground up, with nothing other than determination and raw talent. We send a congratulations and a huge thank you, for gracing us fans with music that will last a lifetime. Jay Z has left his mark; the incredible part is that he is not done yet. Here is to this celebration, here is to another 20 years.
Reflect on 20 years of RD by watching below.