Since JAY-Z dropped "Reasonable Doubt" in 1996, he's been a constant presence on the news scene. And in 2018, the rapper's name remains on everyone's lips thanks to his impressive eight Grammy nominations including nods for album of the year, record of the year and song of the year for his work on 2017's "4:44." In honor of his success, Wonderwall.com is taking a look back at some of JAY's biggest headlines over the years… starting with the controversy surrounding his newest hit song, "The Story of O.J." In July 2017, the Anti-Defamation League criticized the rap mogul for what it called "anti-Semitic" lyrics in the song, which included, "You wanna know what's more important than throwin' away money at a strip club? Credit. / You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America? This how they did it." While the ADL did make a point to say they didn't believe the rapper was purposefully promoting anti-Semitism, they did say the lyrics played on a negative stereotype of Jewish people. Further controversy ensued as critics debated whether or not the song was actually anti-Semitic at all, with JAY-Z laughing the suggestion off, saying, "It's hard for me to take that serious because I've exaggerated every black image in the world." Keep reading for more…
JAY-Z made headlines in 2017 when Forbes named him one of hip hop's top five wealthiest artists of the year. In fact, he came in at No. 2, just a few million dollars behind Sean "Diddy" Combs with an estimated net worth surpassing $800 million. When combined with Beyonce's estimated $350 million fortune, it means Jay and Bey are a billion-dollar couple. (Not surprised at all.)
In December 1999, JAY-Z made headlines for a terrible reason — the rapper was arrested for felony assault in the second degree for the stabbing of Lance "Un" Rivera, the CEO of the Notorious B.I.G.'s label, Untertainment. Lance survived the assault, which included wounds to his shoulder and abdomen. Facing a prison sentence of 15 years, JAY-Z pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years probation.
It was the silent slap-kick-shove combo heard around the world when, in May 2014, security footage from an elevator at The Standard Highline hotel in New York City revealed Beyonce's sister, Solange Knowles, had physically attacked JAY-Z while Bey stood (mostly) on the sidelines. Headlines revealed attempts to solve the mystery of why Solange was so upset with her brother-in-law and why Beyonce didn't seem more bothered by her sister's violent attack on her husband. Theories included speculation that Jay had been unfaithful to Beyonce, provoking her sister to stand up for her, while others claimed Solange was tipsy and acting out. When Beyonce's "Lemonade" visual album dropped in 2016, it rekindled the rumor that elevator-gate had to do with infidelity and "Becky with the good hair." By the way, this picture was taken of the three just after the attack as they were escorted out of the hotel and into separate vehicles.
Never one to shy away from sharing his perspective, JAY-Z made headlines in September 2017 when he said during an interview with BBC Radio 1 that he saw the Donald Trump presidency as "a joke," adding, "[African Americans have] been through so much more than this guy. This guy, I'm looking at him like, man, this is a joke, with all — I can't even say with all due respect — with all disrespect." While the president is known for fighting back (especially over Twitter), he remained surprisingly mum on Jay's diss.
JAY-Z made his own headlines when he wrote an op-ed for The New York Times speaking out against rapper Meek Mill's November 2017 prison sentence of two to four years for violating probation. Jay pointed out the flawed justice system that incarcerated Meek at the age of 19 for drug and gun possession (for which he served an eight-month sentence) and then kept him on probation for more than a decade after. Noting that even the slightest infraction would send Meek back to the slammer, Jay wrote, "What's happening to Meek Mill is just one example of how our criminal justice system entraps and harasses hundreds of thousands of black people every day." In December, Meek was released after five months after appealing his sentence.
The headlines in August 2004 might as well have been filled with heart-eye emojis after JAY-Z and Beyonce made their first official red carpet appearance together at the MTV Video Music Awards in Florida. They actually began dating a few years earlier but kept their romance on the way down-low. Finally, in '04, the dynamic duo shared their love with the world and captured just about every entertainment headline in the country as fans wanted to know all the details of their relationship.
Former President Barack Obama put JAY-Z back in the headlines on Dec. 31, 2017, when he shared via Facebook his annual list of favorite songs and books, which included JAY's hit "Family Feud." The song references Beyonce's "Lemonade" with "Yeah, I'll f— up a good thing if you let me / Let me alone, Becky / A man that don't take care his family can't be rich / I'll watch Godfather, I miss that whole sh–." Other songs on Obama's list included Kendrick Lamar's "Humble" and U2's "Songs of Experience."
JAY-Z made headlines in 2017 with the release of his highly anticipated album "4:44," which was widely considered his response to Beyonce's earlier, emotionally revealing musical work "Lemonade." From the jump, critics and fans (including Sean "Diddy" Combs) called the album — which includes songs like "The Story of O.J." and "Kill JAY-Z" — the rapper's finest work. In traditional Hova style, the rapper didn't hesitate to take shots at his foes (including Kanye West and Future) and also revealed a more humble side to his persona — of a man committed to being the husband and father he knows his family deserves. The effort paid off as Jay was nominated for eight Grammy Awards.
Proving 2017 was all about transformation and letting go of the past, JAY-Z ended a nearly two-decade-long feud with his rap mentor and former friend Jaz-O (whom Jay fashioned his stage name after). The pair originally had a falling out in the late '90s when Jay tried to sign him to his new label, Roc-A-Fella Records, for a dollar amount Jaz felt was too little. It was even rumored that Jaz played a role in the infamous Nas vs. JAY-Z feud that lasted close to a decade. To put the hurt feelings to rest, Jay and Jaz reunited in December 2017 after the Chicago leg of his "4:44" tour. The music mogul took a picture backstage with Jaz and fellow rapper No I.D., which quickly made the rounds on social media and took over hip-hop headlines during the season of giving.
Interestingly, JAY-Z has a long history of squashing beef with his enemies. One of his first major rivalries was with fellow rapper Nas. It began in 1996 when Jay released his debut album, "Reasonable Doubt," which featured a Nas sample (that he didn't authorize for use) on the song "Dead Presidents." From there, the two traded lyrical shots that continually hit harder, ending with Jay's infamous track "Super Ugly," which included suggestions he'd bedded Nas' baby mama and "left condoms on your baby seat." The insults were considered so below the belt that even Jay's mom got involved, telling her son to apologize for what he'd said, which, surprisingly, he did. In 2005, after nearly 10 years of musical "fighting," the duo made amends when Nas appeared as a special guest performer during Jay's "I Declare War" tour.
While JAY-Z's phenomenal 2017 album "4:44" seemed to own the rumors that he cheated during his marriage to Beyonce, the rapper took his confession one step further by accepting responsibility for his misdeeds in a November interview with New York Times editor David Baquet. The rapper spoke about seeking therapy to work through issues that stemmed from his upbringing, saying, "I shut down my emotions and that led to infidelity." While everyone pretty much knew about the rapper's indiscretions, his acceptance of responsibility was a powerful message of change that dominated headlines for weeks after the interview was published.
Not only did JAY-Z's video "Family Feud" (released Dec. 29, 2017) steal headlines because it's a cinematic masterpiece crafted by acclaimed director Ava DuVernay — it also garnered attention because it features the rapper in a confessional booth admitting his sins to Beyonce. The powerful message is one of atonement for his mistakes and, ultimately, Bey's god-like ability to forgive him and move on with their otherwise charmed lives.
Of course the 2012 birth of JAY-Z and Beyonce's first child, Blue Ivy Carter (seen here in 2017), followed by the 2017 birth of twins Sir and Rumi Carter shot the rap mogul to the top of the headlines, but an alleged 23-year-old son named Rymir Satterthwaite has also kept Hov's name in the papers. Rymir's mother, Wanda Satterthwaite, claims she and the rapper were involved in a romantic affair before he became a megastar, which resulted in the birth of their son. However, Jay has denied paternity and the case is headed to court, reportedly in December 2018.
JAY-Z isn't just a rapper and music producer (and published author, fashion designer… you get the drift) — he's also an entrepreneur who, in March 2015, launched his own streaming music service, Tidal. The subscription-based service, meant to rival popular streaming music platforms like Spotify and Pandora, put Jay back in the limelight, especially during his celebrity-studded launch with supporters that included some of the biggest names in the business like Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna and even Chris Martin from Coldplay. In 2017, Tidal put Jay in the headlines once more when it was reported the company had lost an estimated $44 million and was headed toward bankruptcy.
The love-hate bromance between JAY-Z and protégé Kanye West has made the two rappers media darlings over the years. Whether it was about Jay and Beyonce's notable absence at Kanye and Kim Kardashian West's wedding, Yeezy spilling tea on his problems with Hov during a California concert or Jay dissing Kanye on his "4:44" track "Kill JAY-Z," there's been no end to the public relations drama from these self-proclaimed brothers (who often act more like frenemies). After Kanye spoke against Jay's Tidal streaming service (which he'd earlier signed with in a show of support), he ended his contract, creating one of the longest riffs between him and the rapper. Fortunately in November 2017, Jay revealed that he and Yeezy are going to be okay, adding, "It's just that there's certain things that happened that's not really acceptable to me. And we just need to speak about it. But there's genuine love there."
This headline is so crazy, we couldn't even believe it was true. In December 2017, reports emerged claiming that George Zimmerman, the man who was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in 2012, had threatened to "beat JAY-Z" and "feed him to the alligators" because the rapper, who's producing a docu-series on the life and death of Trayvon, allegedly sent his production team to George's parents' house for interviews. George even went so far as to reference Trayvon's murder, disgustingly saying, "I know how to handle people who f— with me, I have since February 2012." Coming to Jay's defense was none other than fellow rapper Snoop Dogg, who posted a side-by-side image of George and Hov on Instagram with the caption: "If one hair on jays hair is touched that's when the revolution will b televised We one and to thank the system let the B—- a– muthaf—a get away with murder try it again Trayvon Martin Gone but not forgotten."
JAY-Z made huge headlines in 2003 when he announced that after only seven solid years in the biz (and eight chart-topping albums), he was retiring. Perhaps it was the grueling pace of making an album a year followed by a hectic touring schedule that had worn him down, but after the release of his "The Black Album" that year, Jay really did retire from recording his own music, at least for a while. Hov took a new position as the president and CEO of Def Jam Recordings (meaning he was at least making music for others) and probably gave himself a much needed rest. Thankfully, the rap mogul changed his mind and in 2006 released a new album, "Kingdom Come," which shot to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and went double platinum.
While on pseudo-retirement in 2005, JAY-Z made headlines once more when he became part owner of his favorite basketball team, the Brooklyn Nets. Although he reportedly only owned 1.5 percent of the team, the holding's estimated worth was over $4 million, and the rapper only had to pay $1 million (thanks to investors wanting a celebrity presence courtside). In 2013, Jay made the news once more when he sold one-fifteenth of his stake for $500,000, which Forbes reported was the "second-highest price in NBA history."
Proving he's also one of the sweetest guys in the rap game, on Dec. 17, 2017, during the Oakland, California, stop on his "4:44" tour, JAY-Z made headlines once more when he invited a woman by the name of Christina Cruz on stage. The reason? Christina was holding a sign that read: "I beat cancer 2X 2 see U! I love u!!! Selfie or hug?" Noticing the sign, the rapper asked Christina to come on stage then proceeded to give her a few hugs and a selfie. Although Jay hasn't always made the best decisions in his life, 2017 proved to be the year he owned his mistakes and his greatness and wasn't afraid to share it with the world.