Is Jay-Z the best Ever?

21 Oct

Jay-ZJay-Z has the presence that is unlike any other rapper. Honestly, his style is more along the lines of Frank Sinatra. It is safe to say that this is no accident as he says that he is the new Sinatra on his single, “Empire State of Mind.” Aside from being a great rapper, Jay-Z has a great legacy, which should be taken into consideration.

It is rare that there is a musician, especially a rapper, that achieves critical and commercial success. The rise of Jay-Z was awkward, to say the least. He grew up with virtually nothing in Brooklyn, New York. Born Shawn Carter, he grew up in the Marcy Projects. It was there that he became a drug dealer.

Shawn Carter spent most of his young life on the streets. During that time, he was shot three times, but he never did major prison time. Seeing that what he was doing was helping him, but hurting the people around him, Shawn Carter decided that it was time for a change. In the late 1980s, he teamed with his friend, Jaz-O, and appeared on his single, “Hawaiian Sophie.”

That song was supposed to change Carter’s life, but all that it did was give him minimum exposure. So, he ended up going back into drugs to fund a rap career. Soon, he landed a deal to release singles on Payday Records. Starting in 1994, Jay-Z began releasing many street singles. In 1996, he, along with Damon Dash, created Roc-A-Fella Records.

It was that same year, that he and Dash negotiated with independent label, Priority Records, to release his debut album, Reasonable Doubt. The album was an inconvenient truth about the ghettos of America and what these people have to do in order to survive. The honesty of the album and Jay-Z’s lyrical ability gained critical-acclaim.

Despite the critical success, the album did not even sell 500,000 copies. The album was a commercial flop. But, executives at Def Jam were impressed with the young rapper who was also a CEO. Irv Gotti, a friend of Jay-Z, worked for Def Jam, so Russell Simmons made Gotti convince Jay to sign to Def Jam.

Late in 1996, Jay-Z was signed to Def Jam Recordings. Under the deal, Def Jam would become the exclusive distributor of Roc-A-Fella Records and Jay-Z would remain as the CEO of the label. Under this deal, Memphis Bleek, Amil, and many more artists were signed. Behind the music coming from the Roc-A-Fella imprint, Def Jam returned to prominence after years of stagnation.

Only one year after the release of his debut album, Jay-Z returned with his second album, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. It was after this album that Jay became a platinum rapper. Not only was the album a platinum hit, it solidified Jay-Z’s position in the rap game and was his second album to debut on the top of the charts. Aside from the commercial success, the album was also a critical success.

Like clockwork, Jay-Z returned, again, with his third album in 1998. His third album, Hard Knock Life, Vol. 2, ended up being Jay’s breakthrough as the album went 5x platinum. Now, Jay-Z was not only a multi-platinum rapper, he was the biggest rap star on the planet. Initially, he was looked at as a great rapper, but he was not as popular as Mase and Puff Daddy. From that point on, Jay-Z was on top of the rap game.

In 1999, Jay-Z was back with his fourth album, The Life and Times of S. Carter… Vol. 3. By the time this album had come out, Jay-Z was sitting on top of the game. While his last album achieved much commercial success, some criticized it for being too pop. With this album, Jay was able to combine hit music that the charts would love with the street tales that made him famous. Behind the single, “Big Pimpin’,” this album went 3x Platinum.

The next year saw Jay-Z release The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, but that album was more of a promotional tool for the artists signed to his Roc-A-Fella label. Still, the album was a platinum success and it featured some of Jay’s biggest hits today. Throughout the rest of the decade, Jay-Z released The Blueprint, feuded with Nas and retired from rap.

From there, he was already legendary, but when he returned as not only the CEO of his own label, but the CEO of Def Jam, he had officially become the best. However, Jay-Z’s comeback album, Kingdom Come, was nowhere near his best work. His next two releases more than made up for that flop and after thirteen years and eleven albums deep in the game, Jay-Z is still on top.

Not only has he mastered the rap game, he has eleven consecutive number one albums under his belt. That is more than Elvis Presley. Jay-Z’s legacy may end up rivaling that of Elvis if he can continue the way that he has throughout his career.

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