Jay-Z: Icon. Part I
"I know what y'all niggas askin' yourselves...'Is he gon ever fall off?'...no."
Shawn Carter, Jay-Z, Jigga, Hov... he's known by many names, but one title won't change, icon. Casual hip-hop listeners from the younger generation think of Jay-Z as Beyoncé's husband, while in reality, he's arguably more successful than she is, and has been successful for a long time in a genre where people don't always last.
Jay-Z co-founded Roc-A-Fella Records back in 1996, along with Damon Dash and Kareem "Biggs" Burke. The label was formed through Priority Records after Carter was turned down by major labels. Later that year, on June 25th, 1996, Jay-Z released his debut album, Reasonable Doubt. This album wasn't commercially successful right away, debuting 23 on the Billboard 200, but this did lead to a friendship The Notorious B.I.G., arguably the biggest rapper at the time, next to Tupac Shakur.
By the end of 1996, Reasonable Doubt sold 420,000 copies, still not even gold, but Jay-Z continued to use his moderate success to his advantage. He appeared on Puff Daddy's No Way Out, Biggie's Life After Death, Ma$e's Harlem World, and then released his second studio album, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, on November 4th. This album sold better than his debut, being produced by the widely successful Bad Boy Records founder Sean "Puffy" Combs. 1997 wasn't all success for Jay-Z and the hip-hop community however, due to the fact that he had lost his friend Biggie earlier that year in March. Though he was struggling with trying to cement his status along with coping with the loss of his close friend, 1998 was the year that Carter figured it all out...