Shawn Carter, or Jay-Z

image for Shawn Carter, or Jay-Z
Exhibition Label
Jay-Z is a rapper, writer, producer, and entrepreneur whose life reflects the rise of hip-hop to the epicenter of global popular culture. Raised in a Brooklyn housing project, Shawn Carter was at first called "Jazzy," and it morphed into Jay-Z. Like a jazz musician, he improvises all his raps when recording, and his strength is his flow—his fast, smooth wordplay and flow of ideas. Carter's stage persona as Jay-Z mixes his past as a drug dealer from the ’hood—"Bed-Stuy was my country / Brooklyn my planet," he raps—with the swagger of a Rockefeller (his clothing line is called Roc-a-Fella). He represents a millennial synthesis of American culture’s love of outlaws, who live in opposition to social approval, with its love of extreme wealth, which insulates a person from everyday pressures. What happens when an inner-city party music and political forum becomes the soundtrack of global capitalism? Jay-Z’s "Hard Knock Life" is the "ghetto anthem" of these ironies.
Dan Winters, born 1962
Shawn Corey Carter, born 4 Dec 1969
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Bill and Sally Wittliff
Restrictions & Rights
© Dan Winters Photography
See more items in
National Portrait Gallery Collection
2003 (printed 2010)
Object number
Shawn Corey Carter: Male
Shawn Corey Carter: Business and Finance\Businessperson\Executive\Motion Pictures
Shawn Corey Carter: Business and Finance\Businessperson\Entrepreneur\Music
Shawn Corey Carter: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Singer\Rap
Digital pigment print
Image: 45 x 34.8 cm (17 11/16 x 13 11/16")
Sheet: 50.9 x 40.7 cm (20 1/16 x 16")
Mat: 71.1 x 55.9 cm (28 x 22")
National Portrait Gallery