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  • Micheal La Shon III

Jay-Z: Icon. Part III

"12 solo albums, all platinum nigga."

In 2003, the talk of Jay-Z's retirement was taking over the hip-hop community. With The Black Album set to drop in the fall, he seemed to enjoy his final year in the industry. On May 18th, he and his rumored girlfriend, Beyoncé Knowles, from the R&B group Destiny's Child, released "Crazy In Love", the headlining single for her debut album. The song was a huge success, reaching #1 on the Billboard 100 with only heavy radio rotation, not even being released to retailers yet. It debuted #1 on the Billboard 200 the same week. The song eventually won the duo two Grammy awards, for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and for Best R&B Song, and was nominated for Record of the Year.

Jay-Z continued his iconic final year with many appearances, including a freestyle on the popular Rap City. The Black Album released on November 14th, 2003. It had three singles, "99 Problems", "Change Clothes", and "Dirt Off Your Shoulder", charting #30, #10, and #5 respectively on the Billboard Hot 100. "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" eventually went platinum, while "99 Problems" surpassed it, going double platinum.

The album itself was also a massive success, selling 463,000 copies during its first week, and continued Jay-Z's streak of albums debuting #1 on the Billboard 200. Unlike its predecessor, The Black Album received high praises from critics. The Rolling Stone gave the album 4/5 stars, writing, "Given one last chance to make an impact, Jay-Z has come up with one of the better albums of his career, though perhaps a shade lesser than his very best, Reasonable Doubt and The Blueprint.". Along with Jay's farewell album, there was an autobiography, The Black Book, he sold out his final show at Madison Square Garden, and even had his own sneaker line for Reebok, The S. Carter Collection.

Although he "went out on top", Hov still had a busy year in 2004. Jay was "retired", but Unfinished Business, an album's worth of unreleased tracks from R. Kelly & Jay's 2002 collaboration Best Of Both Worlds, released to the public on October 26th, 2004. he album had a decent first week, debuting #1 on the Billboard 200, however it sold only 215,000 copies during that same week, 70,000 less than its predecessor. The second collaboration album wasn't a huge success, but it didn't matter, Jay-Z had turned to the business side of the industry by the end of the year.

Carter became the president of Def Jam Recordings in December of 2004, taking over for Lyor Cohen and L.A. Reid signing a 3 year deal that would pay him between $8-10 million annually. During these years, he signed very successful acts, such as Young Jeezy, Ne-Yo, and Rihanna. Jay was successful in the music industry on both ends of the spectrum, as both an artist and as an executive, and in 2006, he returned to the artist side of things.

In April that year, Jay-Z collaborated with Beyoncé, still his girlfriend at the time, for her sophomore album, B'Day. He had a verse on "Deja Vu", the album's lead single, which released July 31st, 2006. The single did relatively well, peaking at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Jay-Z is also featured on "Upgrade U" on Beyoncé's album.

Yes, Hov was back, and he returned as a lead artist on October 30th, 2006 with "Show Me What You Got", the lead single for his comeback album, Kingdom Come. The single peaked at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100, and gave Jay-Z the proper hype for his comeback. Kingdom Come was released by Roc-A-Fella Records on November 21st, 2006, and sold 680,000 copies during its first week. The album also continued Jay-Z's streak of #1 solo albums to debut #1 on the Billboard 200, and the album went double platinum. However, the album's reviews weren't necessarily the best. Most reviewers and even Carter himself consider the album his worst work, with reviewers citing a lost sense of urgency from Jay, due to the fact that he was already successful and didn't have to continue to work to be respected in the industry. The album was considered solid, but nothing amazing or game changing.

In 2007, Jay-Z continued with commercially successful albums with another release, American Gangster, a concept album based on the movie released the same year under the same title. The beats on this album were very soulful and 1970's-esque, giving it a nostalgic feeling. Just like always, Jay-Z debuted #1 on the Billboard 200, and sold 425,861 copies during the first week. The album got great reviews, with a 4/5 from credible magazines such as Rolling Stone and AllMusic. It looked like the Jay-Z that everyone knew was back to form like he never left. In 2008, Jay-Z married Beyoncé in a private venue, and later that year he began to start working on his next album, The Blueprint 3. He tapped Kanye West to help his executive produce the project, as well as The Neptunes and Swizz Beatz to produce some of the songs. The single "Empire State Of Mind" with Alicia Keys became Jay's first single to top the charts, also going 5 times platinum by itself. The album was released under Jay-Z's new Roc Nation label on September 8th, 2009, and also debuted #1 on the Billboard 200, giving Jay-Z the second-most #1 albums in music history. The Blueprint 3 gave Carter yet another platinum album.

His new Roc Nation label came as a result of a falling out with longtime friend Damon Dash over financial issues within the label with other artists. In 2009, Jay-Z made J. Cole his first signee to the label, and he went on to release a #1 album 2 years later. Today, the label has a great lineup, not only including Jay-Z himself, but artists such as Rihanna, Big Sean, The LOX, Fat Joe, and Jim Jones.

In 2011, Jay-Z teamed up with Kanye West and dropped a classic album, Watch The Throne. The album had 3 platinum singles, Gotta Have It (1x platinum), Otis (2x platinum), and Niggas In Paris (5x platinum). The album was released under Roc Nation on August 8th, 2011, peaked at #1 on the Billboard 200, and went platinum. The two stars then went on tour, and the Watch The Throne Tour became the highest grossing hip-hop tour of all time. In 2012, Jay-Z was a featured artist on many songs, such as the remix to Kendrick Lamar's "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe", and in January 2013 he assisted Justin Timberlake on his return from a 7 year music hiatus on his new single "Suit & Tie". On July 4th, 2013, he released his 12th solo album , Magna Carta Holy Grail. The album peaked at #1 on the Billboard 200, and went on to become platinum as well, making every solo album he's released to reach the mark.

In 2014, Jay-Z assisted his wife Beyoncé on her hit "Drunk In Love". Jay-Z has yet to release a solo single or album since releasing "Part II (On The Run)" as a single in 2014, which went gold. Though he hasn't released any new music as a solo artist, he's still been featured, with his latest verse coming on DJ Khaled's latest single "Shining" which also features Beyoncé.

Since 1996, Jay-Z has gone from an upcoming artist from Brooklyn to being considered one of, if not the greatest hip-hop artists of all time. With 12 platinum solo albums, 13 #1 albums, 21 Grammy awards, countless recognizable beats and bars, and a brand that's respected outside of the music industry, his track record speaks for itself. Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter is an icon.

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