By Gigi Abrantes
Since he first dropped his debut album in 1996, Jay-Z became an instant classic on the hip-hop scene. Now that he is about to drop his 11th album The Blueprint 3, MTV News takes a look back at the history of one of the greatest artists in rap history with The J to Z of Jay-Z.
For the past 13 years, Jay-Z has produced phenomenal hit after phenomenal hit, from "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)" and "Big Pimpin'" to "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" and "99 Problems." Whether his abilities are genetic or learned through years of training, his success proves that Hova has no problem marrying the gritty truth of the streets with hooky, soulful beats — a feat many MCs have attempted and failed. In an MTV News television interview conducted back in 1998, Jay-Z discussed his earliest influences, which came from his parents' vinyl collection.
But putting aside his musical talents and successful ventures as an artist and a producer, he has also showed remarkable prowess as a businessman. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, over 50 percent of small businesses fail in the first five years. But in 1996, Jay-Z co-founded Roc-A-Fella Records, which in addition to releasing the CEO's albums also put out smashes by Memphis Bleek, DJ Clue and Beanie Siegel. So, what does a guy from the Marcy Houses know that other businessmen don't? Perhaps it's his application of his experiences on the street to big business. In this interview with MTV Radio in 1999, Jay-Z broke it down and described the grassroots effort and the instinct needed to launch his own independent record company and release his first album.
Today, Roc-A-Fella sits in transition. Though the label has put out many more hit albums, Jigga's huge deal with Live Nation puts the future of the label in doubt. But no matter what, it's certain that Jay will continue to be as sharp in the boardroom as he is in the recording studio.