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Pusha T Announces Daytona Tour, Drops "If You Know You Know" Video
The rapper will hit the road across the U.S. in support of his recently released, Kanye West-produced album
Pusha T has officially announced dates for his 2018 Daytona Tour. The Former Clipse rapper will hit the road for a 22-date U.S. tour in support the Kanye West-produced album launching in Denver on July 21 and wrapping up in Oakland, Calif. on Oct. 13. In addition to the tour announcement, Pusha also dropped a video for the lead-off track from Daytona, "If You Know You Know," directed by Shomi Patwary.
Daytona was released on May 25 as the first project of Kanye West's "Wyoming Sessions." Four of the album's songs have cracked the Billboard Hot 100 including "Infrared," "If You Know You Know," "The Games We Play," and "What Would Meek Do" featuring West. The album also debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200.
A full list of dates for the 2018 Daytona Tour, along with ticket information, can be found via LiveNation's website.
Photo: Simone Joyner/Getty Images
10 Can’t-Miss Acts At Lollapalooza 2023: Pusha T, Tomorrow X Together, Karol G & More
Lollapalooza 2023 will be held Aug. 3-6, with dozens of artists appearing across eight stages. Read on for 10 of the most anticipated performances at the Chicago festival.
Lollapalooza, which started off as the brainchild of Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell in 1991, has become one of the world’s most famous festivals. Its popularity — due in part to the festival's ability to draw some of the biggest names in music, as well as buzzy up-and-comers — has allowed Lolla to expand into Brazil, Argentina, Sweden, France and India.
Taking place Aug. 3-6, this year's Chicago headliners include Kendrick Lamar, Billie Eilish, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lana Del Rey and The 1975. The festival will also host a slew of aftershows all over the city featuring festival performers like A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Carly Rae Jepsen, Portugal. The Man and Noah Kahan.
While these stars will undoubtedly put on impressive performances, they aren’t the only musicians that are drawing fans to the festival. Dozens of artists will appear across Lollapalooza's eight stages. From rap to rock, punk to pop, here are 10 artists who deserve to stand in the spotlight all on their own — and whose sets you shouldn't miss.
Canadian alt-rock group The Beaches embody the effortless cool many bands boast but few fail to execute. The all-female quartet, who beautifully meld new-wave sounds with the ferocity of pop-punk, are gearing up to release their sophomore album Blame My Ex due out Sept. 15.
Lead single "Blame Brett" is an intoxicating anthem in which lead singer Jordan Miller pledges to battle heartbreak with apathy: "I’m sorry in advance / I’m only gonna treat you bad / I’m probably gonna let you down / I’m probably gonna sleep around […] but don’t blame me, blame Brett".
The Beaches scored a major label deal with Island Records and released their debut album, Late Show, in 2016. They've since amassed six No. 1 singles on Canadian alternative radio, and have toured with the Rolling Stones, Foo Fighters and Avril Lavigne.
The Beaches perform at 1:15 p.m. Thursday at the Bud Light stage.
Beauty School Dropout
This L.A. rock trio got the ultimate endorsement after they were signed by Mark Hoppus under the new label Verswire with Pete Wentz and Sherry Saeedi. In a press release, Hoppus stated that he was "always impressed by how hard these guys work, their talent and uncompromising creativity, and their dedication to their fans."
In addition to supporting Blink-182 on their long-awaited reunion tour, Beauty School Dropout released their debut album We Made Plans And God Laughed in 2022. Saturated with heavy guitar riffs, catchy choruses and invigorating percussion, the album has received well over 14 million streams.
Newer songs from the group include the pulsating dance floor anthem "FREAK" as well as "dying to be you." The latter, which was released in conjunction with Mental Health Awareness Month, was written about the band’s mental health struggles and the unceasing desire to be something else.
Beauty School Dropout perform at 2:10 p.m. Thursday at the BMI stage.
Key Glock is a charismatic emcee who possesses the sagacity of rappers nearly twice his age. In an interview with Billboard, the 25-year-old explained that his influences range from Three 6 Mafia to Johnny Taylor. "The soul music, that’s more of the real life stuff, where hip-hop is more of the entertainment and street life stuff. They both had a toll on me coming up."
This February, Key Glock released his third studio album, Glockoma 2, which followed the murder of Glock's cousin and Paper Route Empire founder Young Dolph. Paper Route Empire’s in-house producer Bandplay is responsible for producing half the songs on Glockoma 2, which are a slick combination of pulsating, infectious beats ("Work") and darker, more cerebral offerings ("F— Dat S—"). As Glock continues to double down on his craft, he has stated that Dolph will always serve as his motivation.
Key Glock performs at 7:45 p.m. Thursday at the Bacardi stage.
This Columbian siren fiercely established her place in reggaeton with 2020’s her smash hit "Bichoita." Since then, Karol G has performed at Coachella, collaborated with Shakira on the song "TQG" and sold out Madison Square Garden. She was also nominated for a GRAMMY in 2022 and a Latin Grammy that same year.
She also made history when her most recent album, Mañana Será Bonito ("Tomorrow Will Be Beautiful"), became the first fully Spanish-language album by a female artist to top the Billboard 200 chart. Mañana Será Bonito explores everything from pop-rock to Caribbean melodies. During her attendance record-breaking performance in June as part of TODAY‘s Citi Concert Series, Karol remarked: "The last two years we’ve been growing as a movement and Latinos, we support what we do around the world so we’re here proud of all of us and it’s such an amazing moment."
Karol G performs at 8:40 p.m. Thursday at the Bud Light stage.
Irrefutable pop prodigy Declan McKenna is known for drenching infectious sun-soaked melodies with fiery lyrical realism. His 2015 single "Brazil" catapulted McKenna into the spotlight, and earned him a spot in Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent Competition — which he won.
The 24-year-old has continuously cranked out tunes that drastically set him apart from his peers. Older gems like "Isombard" challenge repulsive right wing rhetoric while newer songs from Mckenna’s catalog — including his latest single, "Sympathy" — reiterate the importance of authenticity and positivity. That sentiment is present throughout McKenna’s currently unannounced third album, and he couldn’t be prouder. "I’ve made a hella weird new album: it’s got a lot of strangeness to it, but that hasn’t come through me trying to be anything other than myself," he told NME in July.
Declan McKenna performs Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the Bacardi stage.
Hemlocke Springs’ major breakthrough came courtesy of TikTok, where "Girlfriend'' became a viral sensation. The synth-laced sparkly pop gem has since amassed nearly 30 million streams on Spotify. "People are saying this reminds them of a Prince song, and I’m like ‘Prince?!’ I’m just a small country girl!" the singer told Rolling Stone.
Springs, who was born in Concord, North Carolina was embarking on a journey to receive a Master of Science degree from Dartmouth when she became more serious about music. Though she hasn’t abandoned her educational aspirations, she does have a few more songs under her belt including "heavun," "stranger danger!" and "sever the blight."
Hemlocke Springs perform at 1:00 p.m. Friday at the BMI stage.
The poetry that MAVI enraptures his listeners with is ripe with blistering sincerity. His first album, 2019’s Let the Sun Talk, was made while the musician was just a freshman at Howard University and was praised for its complexity.
MAVI’s second independent project, End of the Earth, was lauded even more and landed the emcee opportunities to work with the likes of Earl Sweatshirt and producer the Alchemist (MAVI also opened for Jack Harlow on tour in 2021). His latest album, Laughing So Hard It Hurts, shows off the musician’s maturity as he explores themes of generational trauma as well as the painful aftermath of losing people closest to you.
"I made this gentle album to be gentle with myself," MAVI told OkayPlayer. "Everybody else don’t got to be gentle with me. Being gentle with the album, I feel is the best way to hear it and to listen to it."
MAVI performs at 2:50 p.m. Saturday at the Bacardi stage.
Rap’s most infamous kingpin has been working the festival circuit hard in 2023: Pusha T has performed at Coachella, Governors Ball and Primavera Sound. The Daytona rapper will bring his bold antics (like transforming the stage into own personal drug den) to Lollapalooza with a solid catalog featuring some of hip-hop’s most memorable hits.
Pusha started out his career as one half of the popular duo Clipse, alongside his brother Malice. The GRAMMY-nominated pair released a slew of impressive albums, including 2002’s Lord Willin’ and 2006’s Hell Hath No Fury. Once they disbanded in 2010, Push signed to Kanye West’s GOOD Music record label. In 2013, the emcee released his debut album My Name is My Name which featured the popular single "Numbers on the Boards." Over the last decade, Pusha T has collaborated with artists like Jay-Z, Pharrell, Kehlani, Rick Ross and Kid Cudi. On 2022's It's Almost Dry, fans were treated to a Clipse reunion as Malice appeared on the album’s final track entitled "I Pray For You."
Pusha T performs at 8:45 p.m. Saturday at the Perry’s stage.
Tomorrow X Together
This K-Pop group formed in 2019 and is the second boy band to debut under Big Hit Music, a subsidiary of HYBE corporation (Big Hit is also home to BTS). Earlier this year, Tomorrow X Together embarked on a 16-city worldwide tour, and will be playing Lollapalooza for the second year in a row. The newest EP, The Name Chapter: Temptation, was released earlier this year.
They have recorded three studio albums total and during their debut became the fastest K-pop group to reach number one on the Billboard World Albums and World Digital Song Sales charts with their hit single "Crown" and EP The Dream Chapter: Star.
Last year, Tomorrow X Together made history by becoming the first K-pop act to perform at Lollapalooza, making the headlining slot they hold this year that much sweeter. In July, they teamed up with the Jonas Brothers for the light-hearted and cheerful "Do It Like That," which was produced by Ryan Tedder.
Together X Tomorrow perform at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at the Bud Light stage.
This Chicago trio specializes in moody, midtempo songs with an alt-rock feel. Dehd’s most recent album, Blue Skies, is a sonic testimony to the group’s effortless chemistry as evidenced by their creative approach. The pulsating dexterity of "Bop" feels like the equivalent of catching lightning in a bottle, while "Empty in My Mind" is alluring for its crisp vocals and surprising simplicity.
However, that straightforwardness also contains depth. On "Waterfall," they speak on the country’s current cultural landscape by saying: "I don’t care about American ways/It doesn’t change/I’m dreaming of the one who understands." In an interview with Under The Radar, singer/guitarist Jason Balla explained the song was written "in the context of all this social unrest. I think America stands for a lot of things, and it can feel so discouraging…but it’s also a reminder that you have to keep working towards undermining that loop."
Dehd perform at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the T-Mobile stage.
Photo: Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for E11EVEN
5 Takeaways From Travis Scott's New Album 'UTOPIA'
On the highly anticipated follow-up to 2018's blockbuster album 'ASTROWORLD,' Travis Scott's 'UTOPIA' turns triumph and tragedy into another euphoric world.
It's been a turbulent five-year journey for Travis Scott bridging the worlds of ASTROWORLD to UTOPIA.
Since the 2018 GRAMMY-nominated album solidified Scott as part of rap's A-list, he's endured the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Amid working on the album (which he began teasing in 2020), his 2021 iteration of Astroworld Festival resulted in a crowd crush that killed 10.
Three months later, he welcomed his second child with Kylie Jenner. Earlier this year, the pair reportedly split; just weeks before UTOPIA's arrival, Scott was cleared of any criminal liability for the Astroworld Festival incident, but civil lawsuits remain to be sorted.
Expectations were already sky-high for Scott to maintain luminary status with his ASTROWORLD follow-up. But after he experienced tragedy and heartbreak alongside triumphs and joy, Scott had all eyes on him as UTOPIA arrived on July 28. Yet, the pressure didn't seem to faze the Houston-born rapper — UTOPIA creates another euphoric world for his loyal fans.
In honor of La Flame's star-studded fourth studio LP — which is loaded with 18 features across 19 tracks — here are five early takeaways surrounding UTOPIA.
CIRCUS MAXIMUS Is UTOPIA's Visual Companion
Fans didn't know what to expect with Scott's CIRCUS MAXIMUS, which hit select theaters mere hours prior to UTOPIA. The 76-minute film — which takes its name from a UTOPIA track — serves as more of a series of music videos centered around a conversation between the rapper and producer Rick Rubin.
"You've come a long way — is the house half empty or completely empty? How are the kids? I heard there was a tragedy," Rubin asks Scott at one point, but he takes the conversation in a different direction.
The Harmony Korine-directed movie features about half of the songs from UTOPIA and includes appearances from Sheck Wes, Yung Lean and James Blake. Scott goes from DJing a colorful dance party for "MODERN JAM" to smashing chairs and nearly burning down an ancient Italian racing stadium while "FE!N" rings off.
CIRCUS MAXIMUS also allows Scott to share his rather unexpected interpretation of what UTOPIA means inside his world. "UTOPIA is not all pretty," he says in the film. "It's how you balance the idea of confrontation."
Yeezus Rises Again
Scott and Kanye West have had a longstanding musical partnership, as Scott played an integral role behind-the-scenes of West's rebellious 2013 album, Yeezus. A decade later, West's fingerprints are all over UTOPIA — even without a vocal guest appearance.
West earned production credits on "MODERN JAM," "THANK GOD," "TELEKINESIS" and "GOD'S COUNTRY." The latter two were originally on the track list for 2021's Donda before Ye passed them off to Scott to bring across the finish line.
Elsewhere, "CIRCUS MAXIMUS" is essentially a "Black Skinhead" part two; it interpolates the rugged Yeezus standout, and it was co-produced by Noah Goldstein, Ye's audio engineer for most of his career.
Trav's most blunt pledge to Kanye came on "Skitzo," which calls back to West's alleged presidential bid for 2024. "I'm loyal, b—, I got Ye over Biden," Scott candidly raps.
Drake And Travis Scott Take Aim At Their Opps Once Again
Drake and Travis Scott have proven to be a winning combination in the past with diamond-certified smashes like "SICKO MODE," and they aimed to recreate that magic with "MELTDOWN."
Right out of the gate, Drake makes a fiery statement with bars seemingly addressing Pusha T — but he's really sniping his close friend Pharrell, mirroring his shots at Kanye West in his "SICKO MODE" verse.
"I melt down the chains that I bought from yo' boss," Drake raps in reference to a Skateboard P pendant he recently purchased at an auction from Pharrell. The 6 God goes on to diss Pharrell's new position as a creative director at Louis Vuitton and claims nobody's messing with the designer brand since the 2021 death of former head Virgil Abloh.
"Give a f— about all of that heritage s—/ Since V not around, the members done hung up the Louis/ They not even wearing that s—," he continues.
Scott joined Drake in the sinister "tensions rising" theme, subliminally dissing Wonka star Timothée Chalamet, who has reportedly been dating his ex Kylie Jenner. "Chocolate AP and chocolate the Vs (Vs), got the Willy Wonka factory/Burn a athlete like it's calories, find another flame hot as me, b—," Scott spits.
While "Meltdown" may not reach the same commercial heights as "SICKO MODE," it has certainly caused a stir on social media. "Drake went crazy… I love when dude starts gettin' chippy!" Hot 97's Ebro Darden wrote on Twitter. As another fan claimed, "Rap been boring. I gotta thank Drake honestly for wanting to get back in the ring."
Scott Finally Got His Dream Collab
Perhaps one of UTOPIA's buzziest cameos comes from Beyoncé, who appears on "DELRESTO (ECHOES)." It marks a full-circle moment for Scott, too, as he has long tried to manifest a collab with his fellow Houston native, publicly declaring his hopes for a Bey team-up to Complex in 2016. (Prior to UTOPIA's release, eagle-eyed fans noticed that the newspaper cover art for "DELRESTO (ECHOES)" had been incorporated as part of Bey's Renaissance Tour decor.)
As Bey continues to ride out her RENAISSANCE groove, Scott fits in well with his hypnotic flow. And in a rather surprising twist, Bon Iver's Justin Vernon rounds out the track by pouring in his ethereal vocals behind the triumphant Hit-Boy production.
While Bey does much of the heavy lifting on "DELRESTO (ECHOES)," Scott's verse still stands out as he declares he won't give up on a new love interest. "The starry nights, they start to fade (Come on)/ At times, for miles I see your face, yeah," Scott testifies, borrowing from Kanye's "Coldest Winter" flow.
"MODERN JAM" Is The Hit Fans Will Eventually Catch On To
Scott's Ragers normally rush to collide for a sweaty moshpit when his music comes on. But with the genre-bending UTOPIA track "MODERN JAM," La Flame's moving the crowd from the mosh pit to the dance floor.
According to Kanye West fan page Donda's Place, "MODERN JAM" is a 10-year-old alternate version of the raw beat that became Yeezus' "I Am A God." Travis expertly meshes the abrasiveness of Ye's hard-hitting 808s with a groovy baseline. And with production help from Daft Punk's Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, the Teezo Touchdown-assisted track is a good bet to slow-burn its way to major chart success — even if it has a different feel than what Scott's fans are used to.
Since the beginning of Scott's career, he has been a trendsetter pushing the boundaries of what's considered mainstream hip-hop. He knows how to introduce foreign sonics in such a digestible way that it allows him to take creative risks and still thrive as a commercial titan — and UTOPIA is proof that he hasn't lost his Midas touch.
Photo: John Shearer/MTV VMAs 2021/Getty Images for MTV/ViacomCBS
10 Albums On Divorce & Heartache, From Fleetwood Mac's 'Rumours' To Kelly Clarkson's 'Chemistry'
Divorce albums have been a staple of the music industry for decades. Take a look at some of the most notable musings on a breaking heart, from Kacey Musgraves, Kanye West and more.
Divorce can be complicated, messy, and heartbreaking. But those feelings are prime fodder for songwriting — and it's something that artists of all genres have harnessed for decades.
Writing through the pain can serve many benefits for an artist. Marvin Gaye used Here, My Dear as a way to find closure in the aftermath of his divorce. Adele told Vogue that her recording process gave her somewhere to feel safe while recording 30, a raw account of the aftermath of her marriage ending. And Kelly Clarkson's new album, chemistry, finds her reclaiming herself, while fully taking stock of everything that happened in her marriage, good and bad.
As fans dive into chemistry, GRAMMY.com has compiled a list of 10 divorce albums from all walks of music. Whether you need to cry, vent, or maybe even laugh, there's a divorce album that has what you need.
Tammy Wynette, D-I-V-O-R-C-E (1968)
During her life, Tammy Wynette was a prolific country songwriter and singer, releasing numerous albums exploring all aspects of love. She was also deeply familiar with divorce, with five marriages throughout her adulthood.
The most intimate album on the topic is her bluntly titled 1968 project D-I-V-O-R-C-E, which explores how sensitive the topic was to speak about. The title track is a mournful tune about hiding a separation from her children, but also conveys the general difficulty of discussing the topic with anyone. Elsewhere on the album, "Kiss Away" is a longing ballad about wishing for a more tender resolution when words have failed.
Fleetwood Mac, Rumours (1977)
After recording 10 albums together, Fleetwood Mac were in disarray. During the recording of their eleventh record, the members of the band were going through affairs, divorces, and breakups, even some with each other. Against all odds, they created Rumours — and it became the band's most successful and iconic album.
The spectrum of emotions and sounds on the album is wide. "The Chain" is all fire and bombast, while the laidback acceptance of "Dreams" seeks to find peace in the storm. Fleetwood Mac sorted out their issues and are still going strong to this day, but their heartbreak created something special in Rumours.
Beck, Sea Change (2002)
Beck has had a prolific career, with 14 studio albums to his name. One of his most affecting is 2002's Sea Change, written in the aftermath of his engagement and nine-year relationship ending.
It's a deeply insular album, even by Beck's standards. Tracks like "Already Dead" are slow and mournful, while standout "It's All In Your Mind" finds him burrowing deep into his own thoughts to parse out how exactly he's feeling with his new life.
Open Mike Eagle, Anime, Trauma, and Divorce (2020)
Divorce isn't a topic that immediately brings laughter, but rapper Open Mike Eagle seemed to find humor in his personal story with his album Anime, Trauma, and Divorce. The album title gives a pretty good rundown of what inspired the project, and Mike's laidback rapping sells how silly the aftermath of pain can be.
"Sweatpants Spiderman" finds him trying to become a functional adult again, and discovering the various ailments of his aging body and thinner wallet that are getting in the way. The fed-up delivery on standout track "Wtf is Self Care" is a hilarious lesson on how learning to be kind to yourself post-breakup is harder than it sounds.
Carly Pearce, 29: Written In Stone (2021)
Heartbreak is a common topic in all genres, but country has some of the most profound narratives of sorrow. Carly Pearce added to that legacy with 29: Written in Stone, her 2021 album centered around her 29th year — a year that included both a marriage and a subsequent divorce.
The emotional whiplash of such a quick change can be felt all over the project, from an upbeat diss track like "Next Girl" to more poignant pieces like the title track, which finds Pearce reflecting on her tumultuous year. Her vulnerability resonated, as single "Never Wanted To Be That Girl" won Pearce her first GRAMMY, and her latest single, "What He Didn't Do," scored the singer her fourth No. 1 at country radio.
Kanye West, 808s & Heartbreak (2008)
Kanye West's fourth album 808s & Heartbreak came from a deep well of pain. Besides the end of his relationship, West was also in turmoil from the death of his mother, Donda. The result is one of the bleakest sounding records on this list — but also one of West's most impactful.
808s & Heartbreak is minimalistic, dark, and brooding, with a focus on somber strings and 808 drum loops (hence the album's title). West delivers most of his lyrics in a monotone drone through a thick layer of autotune, a stylistic choice that heightens the sense of loss. Besides being a testament to West's pain, the electronic sound pioneered on 808s & Heartbreak would serve as a foundational inspiration for the next several years of hip-hop.
Toni Braxton & Babyface, Love, Marriage, & Divorce (2014)
Toni Braxton and Babyface are two stalwarts of R&B in their own rights, and in 2014, the pair connected over their shared experiences going through divorce. Their bond sparked Love, Marriage, & Divorce, a GRAMMY-winning album that intended to capture the more universal feelings the life of a relationship conjures up.
Each artist has solo tracks on the record — Babyface wishing the best for his ex on "I Hope That You're Okay" and Braxton sharing her justified anger on "I Wish" and "I'd Rather Be Broke" — but where they shine is on their collaborations. The agonizing "Where Did We Go Wrong?" is heartbreaking, and the album ends with painful what-ifs in the soulful "The D Word."
Adele, 30 (2021)
Divorce is hard no matter the circumstances, but it gets even more complicated when children are involved. That was the reality for Adele, and it served as major inspiration for her fourth album, 30.
Like every album on this list, there's plenty of sorrow on the record, but what really sets it apart is just how honestly Adele grapples with the guilt of putting her son Angelo through turmoil as well. The album's GRAMMY-winning lead single "Easy On Me" addresses it in relation to her son, and standout track "I Drink Wine" is a full examination of the messy feelings she went through during her divorce.
Kacey Musgraves, star-crossed (2021)
As many of these albums prove, divorce triggers a hoard of emotions, from anger to sadness to eventual happiness. On star-crossed, Kacey Musgraves goes through it all.
There's the anthemic "breadwinner" about being better on her own, "camera roll" looking back on happier times with sorrow, and "hookup scene" about the confusion of adjusting back to single life. Star-crossed sees Musgraves continue to evolve sonically — incorporating more electronic sounds into her country roots — but ultimately, she comes out the other side at a place of renewed acceptance and growth.
Kelly Clarkson, chemistry (2023)
Kelly Clarkson's tenth album chemistry was born out of her 2020 divorce. In true Kelly fashion, she addresses the subject with thoughtful songwriting and a pop-rock vibe fans have adored for 20 years on.
Chemistry focuses not just on the pain of divorce, but on the tender feelings that many couples still have for each other even after the end. Tracks like "favorite kind of high" mirror the euphoria of love, juxtaposed with ballads like "me," in which Clarkson finds comfort in herself and her inner strength — an inspiring sentiment for anyone who has had their heart broken.
Photos (L-R): Ethan Miller/WireImage, James Devaney/WireImage, Jeff Goode/Toronto Star via Getty Images, Kevin Kane/Getty Images for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Songbook: How Jay-Z Created The 'Blueprint' For Rap's Greatest Of All Time
From groundbreaking albums to star-studded collaborations, Jay-Z's discography has made the rap mogul one of the genre's biggest icons.
As Jay-Z declared in 2001's "Breathe Easy," few rappers stack up when it comes to his flow, consistency, stories, charisma, and trendsetting powers — and he's backed up his claims for three decades on.
The Brooklyn rapper has cranked out chart-topping hits and street anthems across classic albums like The Blueprint and The Black Album, and he's inspired generations of rappers to take on his pen-free approach to music. But long before becoming a hip-hop icon, the young Shawn Carter first honed his musical gifts by rapping over a boombox in his childhood home in Bed-Stuy's Marcy Projects.
Nicknamed "Jazzy" for his love of music, Jay-Z split his time between exploring his newfound passion and dealing crack cocaine as a teenager. After linking with childhood friend and then-mentor Jaz-O, he adopted the moniker "Jay-Z" in the late 1980s, and eventually captivated hip-hop fans on the posse cut "Show and Prove" from Big Daddy Kane's 1994 album Daddy's Home. That moment led to the eventual release of his own single, 1995's "In My Lifetime," and the years that followed served as the coronation of one of rap's biggest stars.
After being rejected from major record labels, Jay linked with fellow New Yorkers Damon "Dame" Dash and Kareem "Biggs" Burke to establish Roc-A-Fella Records in 1996. He soon went from being an up-and-coming artist selling burned CDs out of his car to producing multi-platinum singles and No. 1 albums.
His greatness has earned him 24 GRAMMYs to date — tied with Kanye West for the most of any rapper — and a spot in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. And with a billion-dollar business empire to match his acclaimed discography, Jay-Z has long been declared one of the greatest MCs ever.
As he continues his rap reign, revisit some of Hov's most illustrious career moments, from memorable performances to groundbreaking album releases and legacy-defining accolades.
"Hawaiian Sophie" (1989)
A fresh-faced, hi-top faded Jay made one of his earliest appearances on wax with "Hawaiian Sophie." The 1989 record was a modest and playful hit by childhood friend Jaz-O, who let Jay contribute a few lines on the island-themed track.
Though Jay's presence was minor, he put a face to a relatively unknown name by popping up throughout the song's luau-style video. Years later, he gained the attention of legendary Brooklyn rapper Big Daddy Kane, who brought Jay on as a hype man before he broke out as a solo act and formed a more calculated, sharp-tongued lyrical style.
Reasonable Doubt (1996)
Taking inspiration from classic films like The Godfather and Goodfellas, Jay-Z showcased his lyrical potency and storytelling ability on his critically acclaimed debut, Reasonable Doubt, in mafioso fashion. The album was the manifesto of a 26-year-old street hustler, who looked to shed the deadly perils of the drug underworld to bask in the caviar and champagne lifestyle.
He shifted from the colorful, bombastic rap style of his early career to a snappier and grounded delivery on "Coming of Age," and the Biggie Smalls-assisted "Brooklyn's Finest," while still offering a slice of mainstream appeal on "Ain't No N—" featuring Foxy Brown. Legendary producers DJ Premier ("Fried or Foe"), DJ Clark Kent ("Cashmere Thoughts"), and Ski ("Dead Presidents II") helped lay the canvas for Jay-Z to illustrate his past experiences and impending accolades and riches.
The album was among his best releases in the '90s, and helped establish his foothold in the industry through the new millennium. While Reasonable Doubt didn't reach platinum status until six years after its 1996 release, the project elevated Jay's profile as an emerging MC with a penchant for vivid street tales and mainstream edge.
Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life (1998)
Jay-Z's third album is possibly the most impactful in his career. Not only did it notch his first GRAMMY (for Best Rap Album at the 1999 GRAMMYs), but it remains his best-selling album with more than 5 million copies sold. It also started an 11-album streak of No. 1 releases.
The project was a medley of pop-oriented singles such as "Can I Get A…" and club records like the piano-laced hit "Money, Cash, Hoes." It also offered street classics like "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)," which showcased his musical versatility and mainstream appeal.
Aside from the Stevie J-produced "Ride Or Die," Jay veered away from the Bad Boy production style of Vol. 2's predecessor, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. He enlisted Ruff Ryders producer Swizz Beatz for "Coming of Age (Da Sequel)," and producers Timbaland, Jermaine Dupri, Irv Gotti, and Kid Capri were also tapped for the project, creating a lush palette of club bangers and records indicative of the shiny-suit era of late '90s hip-hop.
"Imaginary Players" (1997)
If it wasn't for Hov, rappers may still be drinking beer over champagne, rocking silver charms over platinum, and driving Range Rover 4.0 SEs instead of 4.6 HSEs. Not only did Jay shift the motor and champagne industry with his second album, but he altered the rap game, too. And "Imaginary Players" was proof.
The In My Life, Vol. 1 cut was a collective side-eye to frauds masked as street hustlers, and signaled Jay-Z's early trendsetting powers. The song didn't graze the Billboard charts as high as singles "Who You Wit," "The City Is Mine" and "(Always Be My) Sunshine," but it grew into a street anthem and blueprint for the real go-getters to shine among the fakes.
"Big Pimpin'" (1999)
For years, "Big Pimpin'" was the ultimate summer anthem. The single from Vol 3… Life and Times of S. Carter showcased Jay's ability to produce hit records with artists from other regions. It also laid the ground for future collaborations between Jay-Z and Timbaland, who went on to produce tracks like "Dirt Off Your Shoulder," "The Bounce," "Tom Ford," and others.
Music aside, the song's video is reflective of the flashy, big-budget era of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Shot during the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, the video's yacht views, sand-filled beaches, and cigar smoke complimented the song's tropical sound and inspired listeners to wrap themselves in linen garments, kick back and enjoy the Caribbean breeze.
The Blueprint (2001)
Regarded as the best album in his catalog, 2001's The Blueprint encapsulated all of the elements that made Jay-Z a lyrical titan and fixture in music. Between the boundless braggadocio on "The Rules Back," the tales of chaotic romance on "Girls. Girls, Girls," and a snapshot of his uprising on "Blueprint ("Momma Loves Me"), the album captured it all.
While "The Takeover" sparked one of the era's most contentious rap beefs, and forced Queens rapper Nas to snap back with a poignant blow of his own in "Ether," the album was riddled with some of Jay's biggest records during the 2000s. Street anthems like "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" had rap fans of all ages spelling out the song's title, and soul-stirring album cuts like "Song Cry" had listeners barely holding onto their tears.
The Black Album (2003)
Jay's eighth studio effort was pegged as the final one by the Brooklyn MC. And while he eventually returned for Kingdom Come three years later, 2003's The Black Album would've been the perfect end to an already historic rap career.
On "December 4th," Jay kicked off the album with a call back to his origins. "They say they never really miss you 'til you dead or you gone/ So on that note I'm leaving after this song/ See you ain't got to feel no way about Jay so long/ At least let me tell you why I'm this way, hold on."
Jay goes on to outline his successes on "What More Can I Say," then incites fans to level up their sexy on "Change Clothes." Between experimental records like the DJ Quik-produced "Justify My Thug" and the soulful "Lucifer," The Black Album is also filled with stadium-rocking anthems.
On "99 Problems," Jay raps over zingy guitar riffs for a bold track that's reminiscent of Run DMC and Aerosmith's 1986 smash "Walk This Way." Both songs were produced by Rick Rubin, who provided the rock-induced, bare-bones beat for Hov to unleash on snarky law enforcers and uninformed rap critics.
The Timbaland-produced "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" is a middle finger to the dream killers envious of others' success. The platinum-selling record even inspired Barack Obama to use a shoulder-brushing motion when running against then-rival Hillary Clinton during his 2008 Democratic nomination campaign.
After dropping a live album with The Roots and releasing two critically panned collaborations with R. Kelly, Jay made a creative pivot with Collision Course (EP). The rapper teamed up with Linkin Park for a hip-rock project that was inspired by Danger Mouse's The Grey Album, and mashed hits like "Jigga What, Jigga Who," "Dirt Off Your Shoulder," "Big Pimpin'" and with songs from Linkin Park's Meteora and Hybrid Theory releases.
The album received mixed reviews, but the project's lone single "Numb/Encore" won Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the 48th GRAMMY Awards and helped the EP land a No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200.
"Empire State of Mind" (2009)
Fifteen years after Nas' "N.Y. State of Mind," Jay made his own dedication to New York City with "Empire State of Mind." The record is an ode to the city that shaped him, and the millions of other natives who, like him, hustled in various boroughs to get by (and have a closet full of New York Yankees hats).
The Alicia Keys-assisted track touched the hearts of New Yorkers everywhere, including Harlem and Brooklyn native Lil Mama, who notoriously hopped on stage with Keys and Jay during their performance at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. The Blueprint 3 single took home two gramophones at the 53rd GRAMMY Awards for Best Rap-Sung Collaboration and Best Rap Song.
Watch the Throne (2011)
After teaming up on classic songs like "Never Let Me Down" and "Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix)," Jay and Kanye West came together for a full-length project in 2011. The two rap giants combined their musical genius for Watch the Throne, an explorative and enthralling body of work filled with genre-melding hits coated with top-tier production and memorable features.
Watch the Throne was an exercise in musical cohesion and set the bar for collab projects to follow, given the commercial success and critical reception it received upon its release. Jay served as the lyrical orator, while West was the sonic architect and more animated showman.
Between glossy trap songs like "H.A.M." and "N—s In Paris, and the pop-extravagance of "Lift Off," Jay and Kanye tell fervent tales of their ghetto origins on "Murder To Excellence," visions of their children's lives on "New Day," and give listeners soul-stirring jams like "The Joy" and "Otis." Each track was nourished from the well of Jay and Kanye's artistry, and done without either rapper leaving the other to dry.
"Holy Grail" (2013)
The same year Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake came together for the hit "Suit & Tie," the pair delivered another smash with "Holy Grail." The song's origins began in the sessions for Watch the Throne, but Hov feared it would get lost in the shuffle — so he decided to build 2013's Magna Carta… Holy Grail around the enthralling record.
An explosive track about the allure and destruction of fame, it became the lead single for MCHG, selling over 3 million copies and winning Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the 2014 GRAMMYs. A year after its release, Billboard placed the record at No. 25 on the publication's Top 100 Hot Rap Songs of all-time list.
EVERYTHING IS LOVE (2018)
Prior to 2018, Jay-Z and his wife, Beyoncé, blessed fans with culture-shifting collaborations like "Crazy in Love," "03 Bonnie and Clyde," and "Drunk in Love." These songs prompted fans to call for a full-length project from the power duo, and after years of anticipation, the power couple delivered 2018's EVERYTHING IS LOVE.
The album came as a surprise to fans, with many jarred by the rumors surrounding Jay and Beyoncé's marriage following the release of Bey's searing 2016 project Lemonade (as well as Jay's honest response with 4:44 — more on that later). While the speculations and alleged drama continue to swirl online, the two stars came together for a nine-track album that gave listeners a behind-the-scenes look at life at the Carter residence.
Announced in the middle of their second On The Run stadium tour, EVERYTHING IS LOVE celebrated the power of black love and family life while exploring unadulterated extravagance. Like their past collaborations, Beyoncé's soothing, high-powered vocals helped elevate Jay's bars and artistry.
Together, they combined their collective powers for stories about rowdy tour stops and endless shopping sprees on "APES—" and "BOSS," and Beyoncé adorned the album with emotion-filled love ballads like "SUMMER." The couple even exchanged braggadocious rhymes about the strength of their union on "LOVEHAPPY," and the fun they have together outside the lines of celebrity on "HEARD ABOUT US" — proving they had not only weathered the storm, but came out stronger together.
Arguably one of Jay's most complete and honest bodies of work, 4:44 is a vivid look at the artist's triumphs and failures as Shawn Carter the man. On the opening track "Kill Jay Z," he sheds his ego-fueled moniker to reveal his early upbringing in Bed-Stuy on "Marcy Me," the discovery of his mother's sexuality on "Smile" and the issues surrounding his marriage on the title track.
While the late-career album was largely viewed as a response to Beyoncé's Lemonade album, 4:44 also painted a portrait of Black America, unveiled the pathway to generational wealth on "The Story of O.J.," and the value of shared successes on "Family Feud" and "Legacy."
The rapper veered from the commercial sound of Blueprint 3, and the gumbo of trap and luxury-soaked beats on Magna Carta… Holy Grail, to deliver deeply personal messages over No I.D.'s grounded, sample-heavy production.
The artist hasn't released another solo project since 4:44, but if it is in fact his last album, it's certainly a stellar way to close the door on a legendary music career. The 2017 release was praised by critics and garnered three nominations at the 60th GRAMMY Awards, including Song Of The Year and Album Of The Year.
"GOD DID" (2022)
On "GOD DID," Jay spit one of the best verses in his catalog. "I be speaking to the souls of men/ Those of them willing to die for the existence that this cold world has chose for them/ Kicking snow off a frozen Timb (woo)/ Back and forth on this turnpike, really took a toll on them." The MC detailed his journey across state lines to live out his street dreams, the drama and misfortunes that followed his tracks, and how he leveraged his powers to become one of the first rappers to reach billionaire status.
He encapsulated it all within a four-minute verse, closing out the track touching on his legacy — and proclaiming that he is in fact one of rap's all-time greats. "I just got a million off a sync/ Without risking a million years tryna get it out the sink (woo)/ Hov big/ They said they don't know me internationally, n—s on the road did/ I see a lot of Hov in Giggs/ Me and Meek could never beef, I freed that n—a from a whole bid/ Hov did/ Next time we have a discussion who the GOAT, you donkeys know this."