Autumn music special - Jay-Z
To kick off our preview of the best live music of the autumn we take a peep at probably the biggest name on the list. You might know him as the self-styled Donald Trump of hip hop, celebrated squeeze of R&B empress Beyoncé or front man for that snazzy new laptop advert, but Mark Edmundson lists 21 other things you never knew about hip hop’s man of many pseudonyms, the mighty Jay-Z.
1. With more pseudonyms than Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, Sawn Carter’s Jay-Z alias is an abbreviation of his neighbourhood nickname Jazzy, appropriated for his smart dress sense. His Reebok S Carter was the first line of non-athlete training shoe and remains the fastest selling in Reebok history.
2. He used to be a drugs hustler in Brooklyn’s Macy projects, and Jay-Z’s co-founded Roc-A-Fella record label maintained a similarly rags to riches story, starting out in a beat-down alley on the edge of Manhattan’s financial district. He is now also head of seminal hip hop label Def Jam.
3. Currently believed to be worth $320 million, Brooklyn’s Finest met Roc-A-Fella rapper Memphis Bleak when working as a cashier in KFC.
4. The Roc-A-Fella franchise also distributes Scottish vodka Armadale in the US.
5. According to street legend, the nine-year-old Shawn, a high school chum of Notorious BIG, shot his own brother in the shoulder for stealing his ring.
6. Abandoned by his father when he was 12, Jay-Z absolved him while writing his autobiography. He later shelved The Black Book due to privacy concerns.
7. The prolific Coach Carter released nine solo albums seven years before ‘retiring’ in 2004, having ushered in a new platinum age of hip hop and racking up five Grammy awards from 18 nominations. He was recently voted MTV’s best MC of all time.
8. Such is his freestyling prowess (the ability to improvise rhymes without written cues) that J-Hova claims his second album The Blueprint was written in only two days.
9. An ongoing feud with fellow rapper Nas lead to him dubbing his freestyle flow ‘smartenupnas’. The grudge was later put to rest at a guest-tastic love-in curiously billed ‘I Declare War’. Nas is now signed to Def Jam.
10. An ill-fated ‘Best of Both Worlds’ arena tour with R Kelly ended abruptly with Kelly storming off-stage mid-set and being pepper-sprayed by one of Jay-Z’s entourage. While the Jiggaman questioned Kelly’s professionalism, the R&B supremo trumped him with a $75 million lawsuit.
11. Another lawsuit was recently brought against the star by WWE wrestler Diamond Dallas Page, claiming that the savvy CEO of Hip Hop had stolen his signature ‘Diamond Cutter’ hand signal.
12. When Cristal champagne executive Frédéric Rouzard remarked, ‘What can we do? We can’t forbid people from buying it’ in regard to the brand’s hip hop association, Jay-Z promptly boycotted the product in his 40/40 nightclubs and promised to omit references to the bling bubbly in his lyrics.
13. After accepting his GQ magazine Man of the Year award last September, the Don of the Rap Game was denied a celebratory snifter at London’s Kabaret Prophecy because they could not accommodate his bloated entourage of minders and models.
14. ‘Charles is very cool’ were Jay-Z’s words on meeting the Prince of Wales, despite not being granted the knighthood he reportedly put in his rider for the Prince’s Trust Urban Music Festival. Sir Paul McCartney later did the honours, proclaiming him ‘Sir Hova of Brooklyn’.
15. The International Hov recently held a press conference alongside Kofi Annan at the United Nations building to launch an initiative drawing attention to the global shortage of drinking water. The charitable Jiggaman has also performed for the benefit of Live8, Columbine, 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
16. A part owner of New Jersey Nets with designs on relocating the basketball team to Brooklyn, he is rumoured to have once considered a takeover of Arsenal Football Club.
17. Jay-Z was apparently devastated by the fatal car crash of his nephew last year, not least because he was driving the £20,000 Chrysler the rapper had bought him as a graduation present.
18. Iceberg Slim has television sets built into the front seat headrests of his Lexus but still enjoys nothing more extravagant than making pancakes when free time presents itself in the homestead.
19. Jay and his Def Jam label are best impressed with our own pocket dynamo Lady Sovereign, signing her stateside and dubbing her ‘the world’s biggest midget’.
20. In 2004, Beyoncé’s father/manager came out stating of Jay-Z: ‘I don’t care for him at all.’ Rumour has it that the power couple are to split once the publicity of Mr Knowles’ daughter’s latest single (featuring the Jigga) is out of the way.
21. Despite his proclamation of retirement following 2004’s The Black Album Jay-Z is reported to be covertly developing a new album to celebrate ten years in the game.
SECC, Glasgow, Fri 22 Sep.