Man of 2003:
They say that for every good man, there is an even better woman standing right behind him. This being the 21st century, the same can be said about a good woman. And if she were lucky, the good man standing behind her would also have an empire built around him.
YOU WANTED TO KNOW
It's true that Beyoncé has had a good year. And through it all, Jay-Z was there, offering her his great producing and MC skills. In between, he also gave her all the love he could muster.
And that's why Jay-Z is my Man of the Year.
Jay-Z has been absent for most of 2003. His decision to retire from the industry to concentrate on his other business ventures shocked many fans. He released his alleged last album, The Black Album, to critical acclaim. Some might say that he took a backseat to his girlfriend's rising star, but some might also forget that he had a part in one of the biggest singles of 2003, "Crazy In Love."
The talent speaks for itself - and for a career that has spanned over ten years, the sound is still fresh. He is arguably one of the pioneers of the new rap era, and will continue to influence music for years to come. Like his high school friend The Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z (née Shawn Carter) started releasing records in the late 1980s, partly financing this by hustling. In 1995 he scored an underground hit with "In My Lifetime." It would be years later, and with hits like "Can I Get A…," "Big Pimping," "Hardknock Life (Ghetto Anthem)," and "Frontin'," that Jay-Z would reach mainstream popularity, in and out of the clubs.
A pioneer in hip hop culture, Jay-Z released Unplugged Blueprint in 2001, and became the first rap artist to release an unplugged CD. He is also the first non-athlete to have a line of shoes carried by Reebok.
In addition to recording, Jay-Z is also a co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records, Roc-A-Fella Films (which released such gems as Paid in Full and Death of a Dynasty), and Rocawear. In 2002, it was estimated that his clothing label took in over $250 million. He is also a distributor of Armadale, a Scottish vodka only sold in the States, and owns 40/40 Club, a sports bar in New York. Ever the philanthropist, Jay-Z started the Shawn Carter Scholarship Fund, which offers college tuition to underprivileged kids in Brooklyn. He also has an annual Christmas toy drive that donates toys to children in Marcy, Brooklyn.
All this, and he still had time to collaborate with Pharrell Williams on "Frontin'," and Beyoncé Knowles on "Crazy In Love." Both songs went on to reach number one, and continue to be huge club anthems. Admittedly, his last album may not be his best work ("Change Clothes" just seems lazy to me), but there's no denying that everything Jay-Z touches turns to gold. At thirty-four, he's a millionaire, has one of the best-looking girlfriends in the industry, and is business-savvy enough to have three successful companies.
Few men would even dare to sample a song from the musical Annie, but he is brilliant enough to make it work. And "Beware of the Boys," a collaboration with Punjabi MC, was one of the hottest tracks this summer, despite the fact that half of the lyrics were not in English. I'll forgive him for enlisting Ja Rule on "Can I Get A…," but only because it's possibly one of the best hip hop songs made to date, and he couldn't have possibly known that Ja Rule was going to end up being such a hack. He also had a hand in launching Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown's careers.
It's a shame that Jay-Z wants to retire at the height of his career. With years of experience and numerous albums, he has proven to critics and fans alike that hip hop is not dead, nor does it always have to be about putting up a front (despite what "Frontin'" suggests). He is one of the best MCs in the music industry and continues to garner respect from all. The contributions he made this year are insurmountable, and in a day and age of Ja Rules and Chingys, it's time to show the public what rap is really all about. ¤ C.Ho.
[ Find out who Michelle deemed as her Man of the Year. ]