In 1997, six months after Tupac Shakur, one of the most influential rap stars in history was killed, hip-hop lost another voice — Notorious B.I.G., a.k.a. Biggie Smalls, was shot several times in his car outside a Los Angeles club.
Hip-hop, as the world knew it, was about to change forever. The “jiggy” era was born, which introduced “shiny suits” and “bling bling” and dominated hip-hop till 1998 and marked the beginning of the end of this era. Hip-hop prayers for a new king would be answered as someone would come to occupy the throne. That person was Shaun Carter, better known as Jay-Z.
The lessons Jay-Z learned living in the midst of the rough and tumble streets of Brooklyn, New York, he successfully brought into the music industry. “The year was 94 and the trunk is raw/in my rear view mirror is the law/I got to choices ya’ll/pull over the car or/bounce on the devil put the pedal to the floor.” (“99 Problems”, T he Black Album). “Police can’t search your glove compartment or your trunk if it’s locked,” said Jay-Z when commenting on the verse from his latest album. “They can just search where your eyes can see and I knew that.” In this verse, Jay-Z describes his life before hip-hop. He was heavily involved in the streets dealing drugs. But Jay-Z has since found a way to amalgamate his work ethics and experience developed in the streets, with his rap career today.
Jay-Z’s career began in 1994 when he appeared in collaboration with rap star Jaz-O in his song, The Originators. It wasn’t until 1996 when Jay-Z came out with his first official album, Reasonable Doubt. Still, he would not achieve commercial success until “Ain’t no Nigga”, his collaboration with female rap star Foxy Brown, which was featured on the soundtrack of the hit movie, The Nutty Professor. The song also appeared on his second album, In My Lifetime: Vol. 1. It was strictly uphill from there and Jay-Z never looked back.
Hip-hop has always been a form of expression, for the urban have-nots. The ones who have taken pride in the culture they developed for themselves in the forms of break dancing, beat boxing, freestyling, and clothing. “Hip-hop has crossed over,” Jay-Z says. “Parents started coming home and their sons and daughters had big posters on the wall of tall black guys with do-rags and they wanted to know what was going on.”
Jay-Z can be quick-witted and humorous in his rap style, a style considered second only to the late Notorious B.I.G. “I did it,” says Jay-Z when asked about his accomplishments. “I did it on every level. On a street level. I did it. I did it to death. No pun intended. On the music level. I did it to the heights. There are few people who can say they did it to that level, that consistently.”
Faze interview and article written by Emmett Bailey.
Photo courtesy of Universal Music