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How Did Jay-Z Get His Name?

Jay-Z has been a force in hip-hop for nearly thirty years, beginning with the release of his debut album Reasonable Doubt and accumulating in a massive music and business empire that spans thirteen albums, the influential Roc Nation brand, and a lucrative partnership with the NFL.

It hasn’t been a bad run at all for the rapper-turned-mogul born Shawn Carter in Brooklyn’s Marcy Projects in the December of 1969. But even if you know all of Jay-Z’s records, from the biggest hits to the most obscure mixtape tracks, you still might find yourself wondering: How do you get “Jay-Z” from “Shawn Carter?” So…

How Did Jay-Z Get His Name?

Before he was Jay-Z, the Grammy Award-winning, platinum-selling co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records, President of Def Jam, or founder/owner of Roc Nation, Carter had a less prestigious gig as the hype man and sidekick of a more established rapper named Jaz-O. Because of his association with Jaz and his early rhyme delivery which resembled the scatting of jazz singers, he was nicknamed Jazzy — a name he revamped to Jay-Z when looking for a suitable stage name.

As Jay-Z, he made many of his first appearances on Jaz-O records such as “Hawaiian Sophie” and “The Originators” in the late ’80s, as well as with Big Daddy Kane on Kane’s 1994 record “Show And Prove.” He would perform with Kane around this time as he searched for a record deal. When one never came, he and Dame Dash joined Biggs Burke in launching Roc-A-Fella Records to release music on their own. The rest, as they say, is history. Now, Jay-Z is a name nearly everyone knows and almost no one would deny an opportunity to partner up with.