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Then & Now

2009 The Blueprint 3

In May 2009, Jay-Z confirms that he bought out the remainder of his contract from Def Jam Records in order to start a partnership with concert promoter Live Nation. This record is his first release under the newly formed "Roc Nation," a label/management/publishing company.


2007 American Gangster

This marks Jay-Z's first concept album inspired by the film of the same name, starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. Despite not being available digitally on iTunes (Jay-Z felt the album should be experienced in its entirety, not sold as individual tracks, resulting in the album not being available for purchase), the album had significant commercial success. Five months after the release Jay-Z, marries Beyonce Knowles.

2006 Kingdom Come

This Grammy-nominated "comeback" album was not as commercially successful as Jay-Z's previous albums, but still managed to go double platinum. The comeback single, "Show Me What You Got," was leaked on the internet a few weeks before official release, resulting in massive airplay and tremendous first-week sales of the album.


2003 The Black Album

This was promoted as what would be Jay-Z's last studio album. In November, he holds a concert at Madison Square Garden as a "retirement party." He does not drop from the scene entirely; collaborations, appearances and a greatest hits album fill the time to when he reappears back with a new solo album three years later.


2002 The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse

Jay-Z's next release is a double-disc effort, spawning the massive hit singles "Excuse Me Miss" and "03 Bonnie And Clyde," the latter featuring his girlfriend and future wife Beyonce Knowles. Faith Evans, Lenny Kravitz, Pharrell, and Kanye West appear on other tracks. Early in 2003, the album is recut as The Blueprint 2.1, containing only one disc of the best material plus two bonus tracks.

2001 The Blueprint

This album was released on the day of the 9/11 attacks. Despite being overshadowed by the tragedy, it still sold nearly half a million copies its first week and became Jay-Z's fourth consecutive album to hit No. 1 on the Billboard album chart. Many critics consider this album to be Jay-Z's finest.

2000 The Dynasty: Roc La Familia

This was originally meant to be a Roc-A-Fella collaboration album for several artists on the label, but ended up being released as a Jay-Z solo record with the Rock-A-Fella family making numerous appearances. Other names appearing on the tracks include Snoop Dogg, R. Kelly, and Scarface.

1999 Vol. 3...Life And Times Of S. Carter

Although still moving in an increasingly pop direction, Jay-Z won back the admiration of many fans with his skilled, streetwise lyricism on this record, including that on the smash hit "Big Pimpin'." He infamously disses fellow rapper 50 Cent in the song "It's Hot (Some Like It Hot)."

1998Vol. 2...Hard Knock Life

This record would prove to be Jay-Z's true breakthrough--pushing him into superstar status. It would become his biggest seller, as well as win a Grammy for Best Rap Album.

1997 In My Lifetime, Vol. 1

Jay-Z's sophomore release featured a glossier, more pop-oriented sound than he'd previously displayed; accordingly, it sold better than his debut, but received some panning from fans due to the different style. The album was released during a difficult year for Jay-Z--in March, his close friend the Notorious B.I.G. was shot and killed in a still-unsolved murder case, leaving his friends and family reeling with shock.

1996 Reasonable Doubt

Jay-Z first became exposed to a wide audience when he guested on an album by Big Daddy Kane in 1994. Despite this, he was unable to secure a record deal, so  he created his own independent label, Rock-A-Fella, along with Dame Dash and Kareem Biggs. He arranged a deal with Priority Records for distribution, then released his debut record, Reasonable Doubt. The record received much critical acclaim and featured an appearance by the Notorious B.I.G.

1969 Shawn Corey Carter is born

The man who would later be known to the world as Jay-Z is born in Brooklyn, New York. His father abandoned the family early on and he was raised by his mother, Gloria. As a youngster, he showed an early interest in music and began writing and freestyling, earning him the neighborhood nickname "Jazzy." This would eventually develop into his stage name, Jay-Z.

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