Jay Z : From Drug Dealer To
$500 Million

On December 4th 1969, Shawn Corey Carter aka Jay Z, was born to Gloria Carter in the Marcy housing project of Brooklyn, New York. The conditions were terrible but they served as the motivation for one of the greatest financial successes to come out of American hiphop music. His net worth is estimated at over $500 Million.

Getting By

His father abandoned the family when Jay Z was quite young leaving his mother to care for their four children as a single parent. The neighborhood had a severe crime problem and money was hard to come by so to help make ends meet Jay-Z began selling crack cocaine while still a child.

Photo by Adam Glanzman / CC BY 2.0

His interest in rap music was present even then and he would later credit this interest and talent with taking him away from that lifestyle and keeping him from jail or an early death. He was academically inclined but never finished highschool. For the period that he was in attendance, he crossed paths with other future rappers such as Biggy Smalls and Busta Rhymes.

Making It

He made steps into the rap world from the late eighties to the mid nineties but his big break came with his co-founding of Roc-A-Fella records in 1996 with two friends. His first record did modestly but featured other major acts of the time and was a good forerunner for his next album, 1998’s “Hard Knock Life”.

Taking the unusual choice of sampling the title track’s hook from “Little Orphan Annie” set him apart in his industry. It also helped earn him a Grammy nomination and cemented his place in pop culture.

Expanding Influence

Jay Z retired from the music industry after the release of 2003’s “The Black Album” and turned his sights to business where he became involved in several wildly profitable ventures that helped add to his substantial net worth.

He was instrumental in the development of artistes such as Rihanna and Kanye West during his tenure as Def Jam Record’s president but left in 2007 due to his dissatisfaction with the company’s approach to change.

He also took this time to invest in Rocawear, a fashion extension of the Roc-A-Fella label as well as an accompanying film company. He has also invested heavily in the natural cosmetics line “Carol’s Daughter” and is co-owner of the pricey “40/40 club” sports bar franchise.

He is known for his sharp business sense and is constantly on the look out for new opportunities.

Marriage and Comeback

While officially retired, Jay-Z had participated in several collaborations with other artistes including long time love interest, singer, Beyonce Knowles and in 2006 he finally returned to music as a solo act with the release of “Kingdom Come”. This was followed a year later by “American Gangster”.

In 2008 he married Beyonce Knowles. Their combined superstar status had by then already led them to be named the most powerful celebrity couple of 2006 by Time magazine. His 2010 release “Blueprint 3” contained the hip-hop ballad to the city of New York, “Empire State of Mind” featuring singer, Alicia Keys which shot to number one and became a favorite of many New York based sports teams.

In 2013 he released “Magna Carta, Holy Grail”, a star studded masterpiece that featured acts such as Justin Timberlake and relative newcomer, Frank Ocean to critical acclaim.

Giving Back

Jay-Z was heavily involved in the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and used his influence to convince younger voters to come out to the polls. He has also been active in relief efforts to address water shortages in Africa, a project that was documented by MTV. Following the devastation to New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina, he donated money to assist the Red Cross in their work there.

Lessons You Can Learn From Jay Z

This classic rags to riches story can teach the following lessons:

  • Spend your time at the bottom learning the skills you need at the top
  • Never lose sight of your goals
  • Never get too comfortable

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"If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants." Isaac Newton

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