Until the release of 4:44, Jay-Z had only given fans small tidbits and hints of his history in various songs. Hip-hop fans have pieced together some of this history - his mother, his life in Brooklyn, his drug dealing days. The notoriously guarded artist has figured out how to give us enough without giving away all of his personal life - he’s not on social media at all.
Despite Jay’s reluctance to spill it all, fascinating facts float around about the great rapper - including some that may surprise even the most knowledgeable hip-hop heads.
Jay-Z’s debut album Reasonable Doubt was supposed to be his first and last project. It turned out to be one of several short-lived retirements. Jay-Z would go on to record many more albums over his storied career.
Jay-Z originally intended Reasonable Doubt to be titled Heir to the Throne, but he changed his mind, fearing that the title was too presumptuous for a debut album. This was a great call, especially considering Jay-Z eventually earned the mythical King of New York crown anyway.
As cover photographer Jonathan Mannion told Mass Appeal:
At the time, stylistically guys were rocking Versace suits and linen, all the fly guys were rocking that. And I was like let’s do this different. Think Brooklyn. True bosses that move in silence, a sort of mafia vibe. Running shit. That was the mentality I applied to the album.
Long before the Brooklyn native became a full-time rapper, Jay-Z got his start rapping alongside former mentor Jaz-O on the track “Hawaiian Sophie.” The two would go on to beef for years, trading insults on songs including Jaz-O's dis track "It's Ova" and Jay-Z's "What We Talkin' About," which includes the line:
Jaz made some scraps
He could've made more, but he didn't sign his contract
Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and Jay and Jaz are now on amicable terms after reuniting at a tour stop in Chicago.
Jay Z or Jay-Z? It all depends on the year. Jay started his career with a hyphen in his name, then around 2010, he dropped the hyphen. He explained on the radio show Big Boy's Neighborhood: "The hyphen was really big back in the day. It's not useful anymore. I had umlauts over one of the letters; I removed that too."
Along with the return of the hyphen, the rapper also began styling his name in all capital letters in 2017. Move over Jay Z... hello, JAY-Z!