No rapper has ever made it into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame – until now. Yes, last month, Shawn Corey Carter, better known to the world as Jay Z, became the first icon of hip-hop to be recognised with the honour.
But the 47-year-old has more strings to his bow than just rap. The following four categories make him so special that he can’t help but make history:
- The music
- The businessman
- The husband
- The social entrepreneur
Winning a Grammy Award is one of the music industry’s highest accolades. Jay Z has a remarkable 21 of these coveted prizes adorning his mantelpiece. Albums like The Black Album and American Gangster were met with universal enthusiasm, selling by the hundreds of thousands and topping the charts.
Along the way, Jay has collaborated with many major names from the music industry, including Alicia Keys, Drake, Justin Timberlake, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Linkin Park and Rihanna.
Over the course of his career, Jay Z has proven as deft in the boardroom as he is in a recording booth. From 2004 to 2007, he was president of the hip-hop label Def Jam, where his signings included the then unknown Rihanna and Ne-Yo. Jay then set up his own record label Roc Nation – which has since branched out into artist management and a sports agency – laying a further foundation in a business empire that now incorporates Armand de Brignac champagne, D’Ussé cognac and the high-end sports bar chain, 40/40 Club.
Until 2013, the rapper had a part-share of NBA basketball team Brooklyn Nets, and his music streaming service Tidal is currently valued at $600m. He summed up his approach with trademark lyricism: “I am not a businessman – I am a business, man!”
With so much many talent bundled in one person, it’s no wonder Jay Z has also been a hit with women. Around the turn of the millennium, fellow superstar Beyoncé certainly saw the appeal, and by April 2008 the two were married.
According to business magazine Forbes, Jay and Bey were the world’s highest-paid celebrity couple in 2016, earning US $107.5m between them.
The social entrepreneur
Jay Z not only has a truckload of money and a globe-conquering wife, he also has his heart in the right place when it comes to social causes.
In 2015, Jay and Beyoncé organised the Tidal X: 10/20 charity concert in Brooklyn, featuring performances by themselves, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and Usher, and raised US $1.5m in the process. The money was shared between the New World Foundation, which focuses on civil rights issues, and Sankofa.org, a social justice non-profit founded by singer and activist Harry Belafonte.
Last year they repeated the feat, joining Alicia Keys, Common, Lauren Hill and Nicki Minaj onstage for Tidal X: 1015, in aid of the Robin Hood Foundation, New York City’s largest poverty-fighting organisation.