Shawn Corey Carter was born in Brooklyn, New York on December 4, 1969. He was the last of four children of Gloria Carter and Adnis Reeves. Their mother in Marcy Projects raised him and his siblings, after their father left the family when Jay Z was only 11 years old. Growing up in the Marcy Projects, he was exposed to a myriad of different influences from heroin addicts to dice games. He attended Eli Whitney High School in Brooklyn. As a child, music was always a part of his life, as he used to wake up his siblings at night by banging drum patterns on the kitchen table. One day while playing outside, he stumbled upon a cipher where he saw someone rap for the first time. That night, he began freestyling and writing lyrics. His mother bought him a boom box for his birthday, only propelling him forward.
Jay Z raps in a cypher with neighborhood rappers, and soon-to-be mentor, Jaz-O.
Rodolfo Franklin, aka DJ Clark Kent, discovers Jay-Z battling in the Marcy Projects at 15 years old, taking him on as his artist.
Jaz-O lands a record deal with British label EMI and flies Jay-Z out with him giving him early exposure to the industry.
Jay Z appears on the rapper and mentor Jaz-O’s track called “The Originators”, which won the duo an opportunity to appear on an episode of Yo! MTV Raps.
Jay Z negotiates his way on tour with Big Daddy Kane, entertaining the crowd during intermissions.
Jay Z appears on the Big Daddy Kane track “Show and Prove”, the first time he became known to a wider audience.
Jay Z releases his first single “In My Lifetime”.
Jay Z and two friends, Damon Dash and Kareem Burke, found their own record label, Roc-a-Fella Records. In June, Jay Z release his debut album, Reasonable Doubt. It eventually reaches number 23 on the Billboard 200.
Jay Z collaborates with Notorious B.I.G on “Brooklyn’s finest”, the only collaboration between the two iconic Brooklyn rappers.
Jay Z releases his follow-up In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 with a distribution deal with Def Jam. It debuts at number on the Billboard 200.
Jay Z releases Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life, including his most popular single to date, “Hard Knock Life”. It wins his first Grammy nomination. The album would eventually become his most commercially successful album with over 5 million copies sold, as well as win a Grammy.
Jay Z releases Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter. It would eventually sell over 3 million copies.
Jay Z releases The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, which was initially intended to become a compilation album for Roc-A-Fella artists but ended up as a solo album. It sold over 2 million copies in the US.
Jay Z performs the song “Takeover” at Summer Jam 2001, attacking Prodigy and Nas. This sparks a feud with Nas, leading Nas to respond with a diss track called “Ether”, to which Jay Z responded with a verse added to “Takeover”.
Jay Z releases his sixth album, The Blueprint, which was written in just two days. It debuts at number one on the Billboard 200.
Jay Z pleads guilty to stabbing producer Lance Rivera at the Kit Kat Klub in 1999. He is sentenced to three years probation.
Jay Z releases The Blueprint 2: The Gift & the Curse, a double album. It debuts on the Billboard 200 at number 1.
Jay Z releases The Black Album, advertised as his final album before retiring. It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200.
Jay Z holds a charity concert, billed as his “retirement party”, at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Jay Z collaborates with Linkin Park, releasing a remix EP Collision Course. Its only single, “Numb/Encore” eventually wins a Grammy for Best Rap/Song Collaboration.
Jay Z is named president of Def Jam Records. This reportedly occurred due to disagreements between the founders about the direction the record label should take.
Jay Z headlines Powerhouse, New York’s Power 105.1 annual concert. At the end of the concert, Jay Z shared the stage with Nas and shook hands to put an official end to their feud.
Jay Z returns with his comeback album Kingdom Come.
Jay Z releases his tenth album American Gangster, a concept album about his experiences as a street hustler.
Jay Z resigns as president of Def Jam.
Jay Z is the first hip-hop artist to headline Britain’s Glastonbury Festival, a controversial choice for many.
During Kanye West’s concert at Madison Square Garden, Jay Z performs a new song, which he proclaims will be on The Blueprint 3.
Jay Z announces that he is parting ways with Def Jam, and had signed to Live Nation.
Jay Z releases his 11th studio album, The Blueprint 3, making it his 11th album to reach number 1 on the Billboard 200.
Jay-Z establishes Roc Nation and signs J-Cole as its inaugural artist.
Eminem and Jay Z perform in a pair of concerts in Detroit and New York.
It is revealed that Jay Z and Kanye West will be collaborating on a project titled Watch the Throne.
Jay Z publishes Decoded a self-authored reflection on his journey to becoming the artist he is today with a close reading of some of his most-famed and unreleased music.
Jay Z and Beyoncé bring their first child, Blue Ivy Carter, into the world on January 7th.
Jay Z is announced as the curator for the first annual Budweiser Made in America festival.
During the fifth game of the 2013 NBA Finals, Jay Z announces his twelfth studio album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, released later that year. It debuts at number 1 on the Billboard 200.
Jay Z announces in that he would be starting a sports agency called “Roc Nation Sports.”
Jay-Z appeared on his wife Beyoncé's self-titled fifth studio album, Beyoncé, with a feature on the song "Drunk in Love". They performed this song together at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards opening. The song and its accompanying album would later win three Grammy Awards including Best R&B Performance at the 2015 ceremony.
Jay Z earns 9 Grammy nominations, more than any artist, in addition to appearing on Beyoncé's fifth studio album. The song, “Drunk In Love,” won three Grammy’s in 2015.
Jay Z goes on tour with his wife Beyoncé titled On The Run, grossing over 100 million USD in box office sales.
In November of 2016, Kanye makes his frustration with Jay Z and Beyoncé public as he talks about what he feels is the lack of care shown to Kim from the famous couple after she was robbed in Paris. This brings to light an apparent “feud” between Jay Z and Kanye.
On June 13th, Jay Z and Beyoncé bring twins into the world as their 2nd and 3rd children, but largely keep it a secret until July of that same year.
On June 30th, Jay Z released his 13th studio album 4:44. It was hailed as an emotional and honest album about Jay Z’s coming of age concerning love, rumored infidelity, and life. It was also used to promote his new streaming platform called Tidal.
In June, Jay Z and Beyoncé kick off On The Run II in Cardiff, United Kingdom and ten days later at their final show announce their much awaited joint album “Everything Is Love” under the name “The Carters.”
In December, Jay Z appears on Meek Mill’s album, Championships, as a feature on the “What’s Free.” He raps a few bars about him and Kanye that the rap world largely sees as a diss, but is later cleared up by Jay Z himself to say he meant that he will always love Kanye no matter what.