Jay-Z: Hip-Hop’s First Billionaire Who Made It On His Own Terms


Jay-Z is not only a dope rapper, but he also has a number of firsts – including being the first black billionaire from hip-hop culture!

The defining hip-hop artist of our time was born Shawn Corey Carter in New York City on December 4th, 1969. 

Jay-Z is the first major successful hip-hop artist who has become just as known for his business ventures as his music. With a number of pioneering releases such as The Blueprint and The Black Album that made his name, his career started from tough circumstances. 

Jay-Z’s early years in Brooklyn in the projects meant he had to put up with a lot! After his father abandoned the family, it gave him an appreciation of what it takes to work hard and to provide. 

During his stint at George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School (also attended by Busta Rhymes and the Notorious B.I.G. at the time), he freely admits to selling crack cocaine during this era and was shot at three times. 

His entrepreneurial instincts formed alongside his musical ambitions. 

A boombox bought for him by his mother would lead him to write lyrics and freestyling, and it was during this time he adopted his stage name Jay-Z as a homage to his mentor Jaz-O. 

With no record deal, Jay-Z sold CDs out of his car and took a leaf out of the book of self-made artists like Dr. Dre, and set up an independent record label called Roc-A-Fella Records in 1995 with partners Damon Dash and Kareem “Biggs” Burke. 

From there, his star shone. His debut album Reasonable Doubt was released in 1996. Since then, chart domination, collaborations with everyone from Kanye to Mariah Carey, his high-profile relationship with Beyonce, and his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021 have meant we have not stopped talking about him since!

With a business empire covering so many industries, from real estate to clothing, record labels, and cannabis, Jay-Z has a number of brands. He has referred to as an extension of himself –  “I am not a businessman, I’m a business man.”

His success in this field is arguably down to his wholehearted emotional investment in his entrepreneurial career. From 2003, when he advertised his S. Carter Collection with Reebok, Jay-Z has been on a path where successful investments built his business brand in so many ways. 

His first mega-deal came in 2007 when he sold the Rocawear brand for $204 million. He has served as brand advisors for companies as diverse as Budweiser Select and launched the streaming service Tidal, which he sold to Square for $350 million). His wildly popular champagne brand Armand de Brignac sold for at least $300 million in cash to LVMH. 

Stakes in teams like the Brooklyn Nets, spirits company Sovereign Brands, the successful Roc Nation brand (which coordinates the Super Bowl Halftime show), as well as running a “budding” cannabis empire helped Jay-Z officially become hip-hop’s first billionaire in June 2019. 

His role as an investor covers a number of disciplines. 

His investments have covered art, real estate, and course music, making him an entrepreneurial force to be reckoned with. His most significant accomplishments in music alone have meant that every year he earns between $70 million and $80 million without needing to go on tour or record any music!

Jay-Z has made history as the first billionaire hip-hop artist but coming from very humble beginnings has made him realize the importance of the hustle. He is also the first solo rapper inducted into the Rock Hall and Roll Hall of Fame as well as the first rapper to make it into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

This is, no doubt, why he has that drive to keep proving himself, and there is no sign of him slowing down.