Shawn Corey Carter, aka Jay-Z, has consistently been one of the greatest rappers in the game for more than 20 years. In that span, he’s also established himself as arguably the greatest business success in modern music history. And if that weren’t enough, he’s probably best known to some at the point as Beyoncés husband (and the inspiration for Lemonade).
But with Jay-Z seemingly moving into a quieter phase of his career, we thought now might be a good time to look back on some of the things you might not know about the 22-time Grammy Award winner.
- He’s Okay With People Not Recognizing Him
In 2012, a video went viral of Jay-Z having a conversation with an older woman, identified as 67-year-old Ellen Grossman, on a subway. When she asked if he was famous, Jay-Z gave a humble answer.
“Yes. Not very famous, you don’t know me,” said the rapper, smiling sweetly.
Ironically, the video made Grossman herself somewhat famous, at least for a short time. But for fans, it was great to see Jay-Z adopting such a humble and reasonable outlook on his own celebrity status (and its limits!).
2. He Was Inspired By Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway
Jay-Z loves his classic R&B. In 2009, The rapper revealed to MTV that he has been influenced by the likes of Donny Hathaway and Marvin Gaye, since he was a child.
“I grew up around music, listening to all types of people,” explained the producer. “I used to listen to old music like Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye and things like that. I’m into music that has soul in it, whether it be rap, R&B, pop music, whatever. As long as I can feel their soul through the wax, that’s what I really listen to.”
It’s a nice reminder that a lot of the most successful people in the industry have widespread appreciation of music history, well beyond their own genres. And frankly it’s no surprise to hear that Jay-Z was so inspired by such talented figures, even if they weren’t hip-hop artists.
3. He Wrote A Memoir
If you’re a fan, this is probably something you found out about one way or another. Generally though, it’s somewhat surprising how little attention Jay-Z’s memoir seemed to get. He wrote it in 2010 to share his unlikely and remarkable life story, and titled it “Decoded.” It would be nice to see an updated version or fresh book if and when Jay-Z retires from the game altogether, but in the meantime this is a fascinating read for anyone with an interest in the artist.
4. He’s An Avid Poker Player
It seems we don’t hear as much about celebrity poker these days as we used to, perhaps because poker in general has moved out of the spotlight and onto the internet. With live dealer casinos available from canada, as well as parts of Western Europe, it’s easy enough for people to play online now as well – and it’s easy to imagine some celebrities appreciating that anonymity.
That said, Jay-Z is one of the few modern mega-stars we know to appreciate his time at the tables. He’s been known to bump elbows with some legitimate poker pros, and haas been associated with some celebrity and high-stakes poker games over the years.
5. He Has a Nightclub in an Airport
You’ve probably heard of the 40/40 Club before – Jay-Z’s famous Manhattan nightclub that generated about as much buzz as any nightclub in history when it opened over 15 years ago. What didn’t get as much attention, however, was the opening of a follow-up club in 2014 – in the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, no less. It’s a new 40/40 Club, combining lavish lounge space with some sports bar-like areas.
6. He Probably Dated Rosario Dawson
While Jay-Z and Queen B are today’s ultimate power couple, the rapper had a series of flings before settling down. While it was never confirmed by either party, Jay-Z was reportedly romantically linked to Rosario Dawson – an actress who’s now rumored to be nearing marriage with New Jersey senator and presidential candidate Cory Booker!