Entertainment Music A Look Back at JAY-Z's Rise to Fame From rapping to earning billions, Shawn Carter has plenty of achievements to look back on as he turns 52 By Diane J. Cho Diane J. Cho Diane J. Cho was the Features Editor of PEOPLE Digital from 2019 to 2022. She worked at the brand for nearly four years covering news, features, human interest, evergreen, holiday gift guides and more. She launched the How I Parent and What It's Really Like to Be …. digital series and has interviewed several celebrities and influential leaders within the entertainment industry. Prior to joining PEOPLE, Diane worked at Bustle, VH1 and Complex. She received her bachelor's degree in Journalism from Rutgers University and her master's degree from Columbia Journalism School. People Editorial Guidelines Updated on December 4, 2021 01:11 AM Share Tweet Pin Email Trending Videos 01 of 22 SGranitz/WireImage Shawn Corey Carter, professionally known as JAY-Z, was born on Dec. 4, 1969, in New York City. From humble beginnings — growing up in Marcy Projects in Brooklyn — to becoming the first hip-hop artist to amass a billion-dollar fortune, JAY-Z has become a titan in the music industry and a highly successful investor across many fields: liquor, art, real estate, fashion and companies like Uber. In honor of his 51st birthday, take a look back at some of the artist's biggest moments that got him to where he is today. 02 of 22 Sylvain Gaboury/FilmMagic JAY-Z co-founded Roc-A-Fella Records in 1995 with Damon "Dame" Dash and Kareem "Biggs" Burke. 03 of 22 Scott Gries/ImageDirect/ Getty The rapper performed with The Roots on MTV Unplugged at MTV studios in N.Y.C. in 2001. 04 of 22 Djamilla Rosa Cochran/WireImage Hov and Memphis Bleek hung during the Jay Z Brings S. Carter Shoe Collection Home to N.Y.C. at Foot Locker in 2003. 05 of 22 KMazur/WireImage Supermodel Naomi Campbell made a cameo in Jay's "Change Clothes" video, which was the first single off of his classic: The Black Album. 06 of 22 Johnny Nunez/WireImage Dame and Hov posed during the opening of Jay Z's 40/40 Club in 2003 in N.Y.C. 07 of 22 KMazur/WireImage Dame Dash and Carter posed with Afeni Shakur, mother of Tupac Shakur, and Voletta Wallace, mother of the Notorious B.I.G., as they presented them with donations from the Shawn Carter Scholarship Fund, which was founded in 2003 by JAY-Z and his mother Gloria Carter. 08 of 22 Jamie McCarthy/WireImage The star received the key to Atlantic City, New Jersey, as he celebrated the grand opening of the 40/40 Club in A.C. in 2005. 09 of 22 Ramin Talaie/Corbis via Getty Jay spoke at a news conference to announce a successful bid by President and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies Bruce Ratner and his investment team to buy the Nets basketball team in 2004. 10 of 22 Rich Pilling/MLB via Getty Fresh off of their monster hit "Empire State of Mind" hitting the top of the charts, Jay and Alicia Keys performed the New York anthem during game two of the 2009 MLB World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on Oct. 29, 2009. 11 of 22 Jemal Countess/Getty By March 2010, Carter, Bruce Ratner, New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, New York State Governor David Paterson, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Delia Hunley-Adossa broke ground during the ceremonial groundbreaking for Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards on March 11, 2010, in N.Y.C. 12 of 22 Kevin Mazur/WireImage The businessman and philanthropist performed at Carnegie Hall to benefit the United Way of New York City and the Shawn Carter Foundation on Feb. 7, 2012, in N.Y.C. 13 of 22 Jamie McCarthy/Getty Usher, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Madonna, Deadmau5, Kanye West and J. Cole gathered onstage with Carter as he unveiled his new music streaming service, Tidal, at Skylight at Moynihan Station on March 30, 2015, in N.Y.C. 14 of 22 Nicholas Hunt/Getty Carter signed artist Romeo Santos to his Roc Nation Management roster on June 8, 2016. 15 of 22 Brooks Kraft/ Getty Beyoncé and Jay performed at a concert for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Nov. 4, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. 16 of 22 Rosalind O'Connor/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty The rapper appeared on Saturday Night Live, alongside host Ryan Gosling, in September 2017. 17 of 22 JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty On the eve of the 60th annual Grammy Awards in 2018, Hov was presented with the Industry Icon award during the traditional Clive Davis party. 18 of 22 Larry Busacca/PW18/Getty The father of three and wife Beyoncé shared a kiss during their joint On the Run II tour at MetLife Stadium on Aug. 2, 2018, in East Rutherford, New Jersey. 19 of 22 Kevin Mazur/Getty The rapper was joined by Robert Kraft, Michael Rubin, Meek Mill, Michael Novogratz, Clara Wu Tsai, Dan Loeb and Van Jones at the launch of The Reform Alliance — an organization that works to reduce the number of people unjustly wrapped up in the criminal justice system — at John Jay College on Jan. 23, 2019 in N.Y.C. 20 of 22 Kevin Mazur/Getty The living legend hung with his A-list pals Diddy, Usher, Swizz Beatz and more at his annual Roc Nation pre-Grammys brunch on Feb. 9, 2019, in L.A. 21 of 22 Earl Gibson III/Getty The music mogul accepted the prestigious President's Award on stage at the 50th NAACP Image Awards at the Dolby Theatre on March 30, 2019, in Hollywood. 22 of 22 Kevin Mazur/Getty NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Jay were in good spirits at the Roc Nation and NFL partnership announcement at Roc Nation on Aug. 14, 2019, in N.Y.C.