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Jay-Z (aka the Jigga, born Shawn Carter December 4, 1969) is an American rapper, originally from Brooklyn, New York. He was raised by a single mother and, as a young man, began hustling on the streets of New York. He briefly attended high school in Trenton, NJ where he honed his rap skills and is remembered as constantly rhyming. After several unsuccessful attempts to launch a career (with Jaz-O, and then as part of a group called Original Flavor), Jay-Z co-founded Roc-a-Fella Records with Damon Dash, releasing his debut album Reasonable Doubt, to considerable acclaim within the rap community, though it did not achieve widespread success. It included four charting singles, "Ain't No Nigga" (with Foxy Brown), "Can't Knock the Hustle" (with Mary J. Blige), "Dead Presidents" and "Feelin' It".

In 1997, Jay-Z's follow-up, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, peaked at #3 and helped establish his career and mainstream success. In spite of the success, Jay-Z's image was tarnished by a perceived pandering to mainstream sales, and a watering down of his sound. The next year, Jay-Z released , continued this evolution towards a pop-oriented market. This included several huge singles, including "Can I Get A...", "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)", "Jigga What?", "It's Alright" and "Money Ain't a Thang".

In 1999, Jay-Z released , which was another big hit in spite of continued criticism for his pop-oriented sound, and a large roster of collaborators that many felt crowded out Jay-Z himself. His next album, Dynasty Roc la Familia, was originally intended as a collaboration album with many guests from Roc-a-Fella's roster, including Beanie Sigel, Memphis Bleek and Amil, as well as Scarface, Just Blaze, R. Kelly, Kanye West, The Neptunes and Snoop Dogg.

2001's The Blueprint is considered to be a masterpiece, containing the perfect blend of street credibility and mainstaim appeal. It contains "H to the Izzo", a top ten hit, and tracks insulting Prodigy (Mobb Deep) and Nas. The latter responded with his own track, and the pair's rivalry escalated into one of the most famous rap rivalries since the East Coast/West Coast feud of the mid-1990s. The Blueprint featured only one collaboration, with Eminem on "Renegade".

This was followed by an Unplugged album, and collaborating with R. Kelly on Best of Both Worlds. Jay-Z returned in 2002 with , a sprawling double-album.

In 2003, he toured with: 50 Cent, Busta Rhymes and Sean Paul while finishing work on his final album, The Black Album.

In 2004, The Black Album was controversially remixed with The Beatles' White Album, by DJ Danger Mouse. It is called "The Grey Album." An a capella special edition of The Black Album, sporting a red CD case, was consequently released.

Many are upset with his 2003 retirement and felt that he has left to early. At the time of his retirement, no other rapper could match his street credibilty and his mainstream popularity. He is looked at by millions of hip hop fans as the best living rapper.