Jay-Z is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished and proficient rappers to ever pick up a microphone. A native of Brooklyn, he spent much of the 1990's trying to break into the rap game while also juggling his time as a street hustler.
Outside of a few early 1990's rap cameos—Jaz-O's "The Originators," Original Flavor's "Can I Get Open" and Big Daddy Kane's "Show & Prove"—Jay was still unsuccessful at securing a label deal for himself. After several failed attempts to get noticed, Jay-Z decided to go independent and formed Roc-A-Fella Records with business partners Damon Dash and Kareem "Biggs" Burke.
In 1996, Hov kicked off his professional rap career with his stellar debut solo album, Reasonable Doubt, which featured a guest appearance by up-and-coming rap superstar The Notorious B.I.G. The album was a commercial success, reaching platinum status in February of 2002.
Jay's career took off with his 1998 album, Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life, which sold six million copies and included the Annie-sampled "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)." But it was his classic 2001 LP, The Blueprint, that solidified Jay-Z's status as one of hip-hop's G.O.A.Ts (Greatest of All Time).
Jay-Z's talent as a lyricist is undeniable, but he's also made a name for himself in the corporate world. As a savvy businessman, his investments in fashion (Rocawear), liquor (Dussé), a luxury sports bar (40/40 Club), a streaming service (Tidal) and a management agency (Roc Nation), helped him become the wealthiest rapper in the world with a net worth of $2.5 billion.