The Decision: Creating Roc-A-Fella Records
The Year: 1996
The Bottom Line: What do you do when no one wants to take a chance on your debut album? You create your own record label (along with your partners Dame Dash and Kareem "Biggs" Burke), seek a distributor (in Jay's case, Priority Records) and hold on to the rights to your masters. And when your album eventually sells more than a million copies? Well, let's just say you're getting paid in full. From the start, Jay's been about his paper.
The Decision: Announcing his retirement from the rap game
The Year: 1998
The Bottom Line: No, we're not talking about The Black Album. Rather, Hov announced that he was "hanging up the mic" on the intro to Vol. 2...Hard Knock Life. And while it didn't help his credibility—especially when he put out another new album just a year later—it did turn every Jay-Z album after Vol. 2, including his true "retirement" album, The Black Album, into a big event.
The Decision: Working with Juvenile on 1998's "Ha" remix and Bun B and Pimp C on Vol. 3's "Big Pimpin"
The Year: 1998
The Bottom Line: It's hard to believe, but if you didn't grow up listening to hip-hop in the late 1990s, East Coast rappers and Southern rappers were not working together. Hov helped breaked down those barriers by appearing on Juve's hit single and then inviting UGK to appear on his fourth solo album in 1999. It undoubtedly helped expand his fan base at the time.
The Decision: Signing Kanye West to Roc-A-Fella Records
The Year: 2002
The Bottom Line: Jay doesn't make many mistakes, but he almost made one when it came to signing 'Ye. He initially balked at Mr. West's skills on the mic and thought it'd be better for him to stick to crafting beats behind the boards. But he eventually agreed to sign him to keep him in the Roc-A-Fella camp. Four platinum albums later, it's safe to say that was one of the best decisions he ever made.
The Decision: Opening The 40/40 Club in New York City
The Year: 2003
The Bottom Line: Though a short-lived 40/40 location in Las Vegas closed just eight months after opening in 2008, Jay currently helps operate 40/40 locations in NYC and Atlantic City, NJ and also has plans to open clubs in Chicago, Tokyo and Macau in the near future. Like all of his ventures, the 40/40 insignia helps keep his name out there.
The Decision: Buying a stake in the New Jersey Nets
The Year: 2004
The Bottom Line: Granted, he owns a very (very!) small stake in the team (he reportedly paid about $4.5 million for ownership rights) but his presence has been felt in the NBA thanks to the courtside seats that he often occupies with wife Beyonce. He also appeared on a billboard to help promote the team during LeBron James's free agency period, which only helped increase his public profile. So, really, $4.5 million is a small price to pay for everything his stake in the team has done for him. Oh, and moving the team to Brooklyn won't be half-bad for him, either.
The Decision: Selling the Rocawear to Iconix Brand Group
The Year: 2007
The Bottom Line: Though Jay (and his former partner Dame Dash) enjoyed a ton of success with the Rocawear clothing line, Jay bought out Dash's 25 percent stake in the company for $30 million in 2005 after the two had a falling out and sold total control to Iconix for more than $200 million in 2007. Not a bad profit.
The Decision: Buying himself out of his Def Jam contract
The Year: 2009
The Bottom Line: Despite the fact that Jay spent nearly his entire career on the Def Jam roster, he bought himself out of his record contract just before releasing The Blueprint 3 and took possession of all of his music. And that led to him...
The Decision: Signing a deal with Live Nation
The Year: 2008
The Bottom Line: In probably his most lucrative deal to date, Hov agreed to a deal with the concert-promotion company Live Nation in 2008 for about $150 million over the course of five years. Live Nation also helped him establish Roc Nation, a record label/music development company/promotional tool for Jay-Z and his stable of artists. Business as usual, huh?
Why do you think Jay-Z has been so successful? Are you planning on buying his book? Leave us a comment and let us know!