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Born Shawn Corey Carter on December 4, 1969, Jay-Z grew up in Brooklyn's drug-infested Marcy Projects. He used rap as an escape, and appeared on Yo! MTV Raps in 1989. After selling millions of records with his own Roc-A-Fella label, Jay-Z then created his own clothing line.
Jay-Z was born Shawn Corey Carter on December 4, 1969, in Brooklyn, New York. "He was the last of my four children," Jay-Z's mother later recalled, "the only one who didn't give me any pain when I gave birth to him, and that's how I knew he was a special child." Jay-Z's father, Adnes Reeves, left the family when Jay-Z was only 11 years old. The young rapper was raised by his mother, Gloria Carter, in Brooklyn's drug-infested Marcy Projects.
During a rough adolescence, detailed in many of his autobiographical songs, Shawn Carter dealt drugs and flirted with gun violence. He attended Eli Whitney High School in Brooklyn, where he was a classmate of the soon-to-be-martyred rap legend Notorious B.I.G. As Jay-Z later remembered his childhood in one of his songs ("December 4th"), "I went to school, got good grades, could behave when I wanted/ But I had demons deep inside that would raise when confronted."
Rise to Hop-Hop Fame
Carter turned to rap at a very young age as an escape from the drugs, violence and poverty that surrounded him in the Marcy Projects. In 1989, he joined the rapper Jaz-O—an older performer who served as a kind of mentor—to record a song called "The Originators," which won the pair an appearance on an episode of Yo! MTV Raps. It was at this point that Shawn Carter embraced the nickname Jay-Z, which was simultaneously an homage to Jaz-O, a play on Carter's childhood nickname of "Jazzy," and a reference to the J/Z subway station near his Brooklyn home. But even though he had a stage name, Jay-Z remained relatively anonymous until he and two friends, Damon Dash and Kareem Burke, founded their own record label, Roc-A-Fella Records, in 1996. In June of that year, Jay-Z released his debut album, Reasonable Doubt. Although the record only reached No. 23 on the Billboard charts, it is now considered a classic hip-hop album, featuring songs such as "Can't Knock the Hustle," featuring Mary J. Blige, and "Brooklyn's Finest," a collaboration with Notorious B.I.G. Reasonable Doubt established Jay-Z as an emerging star in hip-hop.
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