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.
Last week, Jay-Z joined forces with former protégés Kanye West and Rihanna for his new music video “Run This Town.” It’s a testament to Jigga’s reach, as it featured two stars whose careers he helped nurture — something he has done time and again over his career.
21-year-old Barbados native Rihanna first brought her Caribbean flavor to the United States in 2003. She spent over a year shuttling between New York City and her home, shopping her demo, writing songs and making connections. She finally caught the ear of then-CEO of Def Jam Jay-Z, who signed her on the spot. Ne-Yo, the 29-year-old songwriter with lyrics that tug at everyone’s heartstrings, has been writing hit ballads since he was a teenager, and before he was a performer, he penned hits for Mary J. Blige, B2K, Faith Evans and Musiq Soulchild. But despite being the name attached to R&B’s hits like Mario’s “Let Me Love You” and Marques Houston’s “That Girl,” Ne-Yo failed to receive the attention and fame as a solo artist himself. It wasn’t until 2006 when Ne-Yo sparked Jay-Z’s interest and was also signed to Def Jam.
Kanye West, the 32-year-old rapper/producer got his first taste of popularity as the architect behind much of Jay-Z’s 2001 album The Blueprint. But in 2002, when West proposed the idea of signing on as a rapper himself, the label heads weren’t so comfortable with the idea of merging West’s refined style with Roc-A-Fella’s street cred. Eventually, game recognized game and Jigga signed West to a Roc-A-Fella deal in 2004. He dropped The College Dropout shortly thereafter, erasing all doubts about his abilities and further cementing Hova as an artist and businessman who knows talent when he hears it.