After striking a distribution deal with Priority, Jay-Z released his 1996 debut album Reasonable Doubt with beats from acclaimed producers such as DJ Premier and Super DJ Clark Kent and an appearance by The Notorious B. After reaching a new distribution deal with Def Jam in 1997, Jay-Z released his follow-up In My Lifetime, Vol. Produced by Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs, it sold better than his previous effort. The album was a personal revelation for Jay-Z as he told the stories of his difficult upbringing. Other producers included DJ Premier, Erick Sermon, The 45 King, and Kid Capri. In 2000, Jay-Z released The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, which was originally intended to become a compilation album for Roc-A-Fella artists but Def Jam turned into a Jay-Z album. In 2001, Jay-Z spoke out against Prodigy after he took an issue with a Jay-Z line from "Money, Cash, Hoes" that he felt alluded disparagingly to Mobb Deep and his dispute with Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg, and Death Row Records.
Jay-Z later explained that the album was made during one of the worst periods of his life when he was reeling from the death of his close friend, The Notorious B. The album's glossy production stood as a contrast to his first release, and some dedicated fans felt he had "sold out." However, the album did feature some beats from producers who had worked with him on Reasonable Doubt, namely DJ Premier and Ski. Charting hits from this album included "Can I Get A...", featuring Ja Rule and Amil, and "Nigga What, Nigga Who", also featuring Amil. 2 would eventually become Jay-Z's most commercially successful album; it was certified 5× Platinum in the United States and has to date sold over five million copies. The album helped to introduce newcomer producers The Neptunes, Just Blaze, Kanye West, and Bink, which have all gone on to achieve notable success. He later performed the song "Takeover", at Summer Jam 2001, which initially attacked Prodigy and revealed photos of Prodigy dressed like Michael Jackson.
The album spawned two massive hit singles, "Excuse Me Miss" and "'03 Bonnie & Clyde", which featured Jay-Z's future wife Beyoncé.
"Guns & Roses", featuring Lenny Kravitz, and "Hovi Baby" were two successful radio singles as well. The Blueprint 2.1 featured tracks that do not appear on The Blueprint He worked with several producers including Just Blaze, The Neptunes, Kanye West, Timbaland, Eminem, DJ Quik, 9th Wonder, The Buchanans, and Rick Rubin.
His first official rap single was called "In My Lifetime", for which he released a music video. Hard Knock Life which spawned the biggest hit of his career at the time, "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)".
An unreleased music video was also produced for the B-side "I Can't Get with That." and, with Damon Dash and Kareem Biggs, created Roc-A-Fella Records as an independent label in 1995. The album reached number 23 on the Billboard 200, and was generally favored by critics. He relied more on flow and wordplay, and he continued with his penchant for mining beats from the popular producers of the day such as Swizz Beatz, an upstart in-house producer for Ruff Ryders, and Timbaland. The album proved successful and sold over 3 million copies. 3's most successful single was "Big Pimpin'", featuring UGK.
In 2009, he was ranked the tenth-most successful artist of the 2000s by Billboard as well as the fifth top solo male artist and fourth top rapper behind Eminem, Nelly, and 50 Cent.
He is the former president of Def Jam Recordings, co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records, and the founder of the entertainment company Roc Nation.
Written in just two days, It was lauded for its production and its balance of "mainstream" and "hardcore" rap. A.)", "Girls, Girls, Girls", "Jigga That Nigga", and "Song Cry".
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He is one of the best-selling musicians of all time, having sold more than 50 million albums and 75 million singles worldwide, while receiving 21 Grammy Awards for his music.
He has also had four number ones on the Billboard Hot 100, one ("Empire State of Mind") as lead artist.