Top Picks: Celebrating Jay-Z

Jay-Z, rapper, songwriter, performer, executive and entrepreneur, is one of the most successful and influential hip-hop artists of our time. Born Shawn Carter on December 4, 1969 in Brooklyn, he's best known for hit songs such as "99 Problems," "Big Pimpin'," "Holy Grail" and "I Just Wanna Love U."

The performer adopted the stage name Jay-Z as a nod to his mentor Jaz-O and his neighborhood nickname Jazzy. Early in his career he was introduced to Damon Dash and the two later formed Roc-A-Fella Records, going on to transform the hip-hop scene.

Through solo and collaborative efforts, Jay-Z has won 22 Grammy Awards, seven BET Awards, three American Music Awards and three Billboard Music Awards, among many others. Billboard and Rolling Stone have named him one of the 100 greatest artists of all time, solidifying his megastar status in the music world.

In honor of his 50th birthday in December, here are a few top picks for fans of Jay-Z.

Decoded is a collection of lyrics for 36 songs written by Jay-Z. This recommended read for any fan includes a rare look into his life and thoughts behind his songs.

Empire State of Mind tells the rags-to-riches story of Jay-Z's meteoric rise from rapper to superstar record executive and entrepreneur, focusing heavily on his business success. This is a great read for anyone seeking inspiration. 

Jay-Z is a biography of the rapper that ranges from his beginnings as a drug dealer in Brooklyn to his high-profile marriage to Beyonce. It includes interviews with artists such as Kanye West, Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J and Damon Dash, as well as Jay-Z himself.

The Hits Collection is a solid set of Jay-Z's best songs, although not inclusive of everything that makes his music great. It's highly recommended for anyone wanting a taste of his musical acumen up until 2010.

What's your favorite Jay-Z song or album?

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