Jay Z was once simply a rapper.
Today, he's an absolute superstar, with his own record label, a clothing line, a sports talent agency and a wife, Beyonce, who also happens to be one of the world's biggest pop stars.
On Dec. 1, Jay Z will bring his “Magna Carta World Tour” to Lincoln to play the Pinnacle Bank Arena. Tickets go on sale Thursday.
Over the years, Jay Z has continually reinvigorated himself and his fans with lavish raps and incredible beats. All the while, he has started new business ventures and, for several years, ran one of the biggest hip-hop labels around.
We tracked his ever-rising career (and his brief retirement) with five musical moments that marked his reinventions, renewals and returns to form.
“Can't Knock the Hustle”
Before this song came out on his debut album, “Reasonable Doubt,” Hova was selling CDs out of the back of his car, and he created Rock-A-Fella Records because no one else would sign him. When it dropped in 1996, the album reached No. 23 on Billboard's chart and has since gone platinum. “Can't Knock the Hustle” featured Mary J. Blige, who was huge at the time.
“Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” and “Big Pimpin'”
It's one thing to have a hit song or a hit album (especially when Mary J. Blige and Notorious B.I.G. are involved), but it's pretty impressive to follow that up with a couple of huge hits, a Grammy and several million albums sold. Jay Z's third album, “Vol. 2 ... Hard Knock Life,” sold more than 5 million copies, and his fourth, “Vol. 3 ... The Life and Times of S. Carter,” sold 3 million.
The cornerstones of each record were “Hard Knock Life,” and its sample of the musical “Annie,” and “Big Pimpin,” whose music video has Jay throwing cash into a crowd, hanging with barely clothed women and smoking cigars on a yacht.
Is there a better hip-hop album than “The Black Album?” We're not sure, but Mr. Carter swung hard with his 2003 record — and he definitely hit a home run. “Encore,” “Change Clothes” and “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” are all great jams, but the Rick Rubin-produced “99 Problems” and its black-and-white video put Jay Z on top of the rap game once again. No one has since knocked him off. And what did Jay Z do after another amazing success? He “retired” from rap.
“Show Me What You Got”
Like superheroes that can't stay dead, no successful musician ever really retires. Jay Z was no different. His retirement lasted from his 2003 Madison Square Garden concert — the subject of the film “Fade to Black” — to a comeback party for the album “Kingdom Come” in 2005. At the time, the horn-heavy single “Show Me What You Got” was released, Hova was also named the CEO of Def Jam Recordings, so you can thank him for the careers of Rihanna and Ne-Yo.
By 2011, we knew Jay -Z was the king of hip-hop. And he did, too. We expected big things when he and Kanye West made an album together. “Watch the Throne” crushed our expectations by being way more awesome than we thought it could. The crown jewel was the sharp synthesizer notes in “In Paris,” which won the Grammy that year for best rap performance.