One of the top hip-hop performers of the late '90s, hardcore rapper Jay-Z grew up in Brooklyn's tough Marcy Projects. (He supposedly took his name from two nearby subway lines.) Like fellow New York rappers DMX
and Nas, he achieved broad mainstream acceptance for his unflinching accounts of urban life. After appearing on tracks by Big Jaz and Original Flavor, Jay-Z released his first album, Reasonable Doubt (#23 pop, #3 R&B, 1996) which included "Ain't No Nigga" (#50 pop, #17 R&B, 1996) with Foxy Brown. Another single, "Can't Knock the Hustle" (#73 pop, #35 R&B, 1996), featured guest vocals from Mary J. Blige
. Unhappy with the album's distribution, Jay-Z formed his own record company, Roc-A-Fella, and signed a deal with Def Jam. In My Lifetime, vol. 1 (#3 pop, #2 R&B, 1997) was an unqualified success, but 1998's Volume 2...Hard Knock Life (#1 pop and R&B, 1998) allowed the rapper to thoroughly dominate the pop charts. Two singles, debuting within a month of each other, did the rest: the jaunty "Can I Get a..." (#19 pop, #6 R&B, 1998), from the Rush Hour soundtrack, and "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)" (#15 pop, #10 R&B, 1998), which used a sample of a children's chorus from The Original Broadway Cast of "Annie." The rapper embarked on a hugely successful tour and boosted the careers of such proteges as Ja Rule, Beanie Sigel, and Memphis Bleek. Volume 2 sold more than 4 million copies and won a Grammy Award
for Best Rap Album. The 1999 followup, Volume 3... The Life & Times of S. Carter (#1 pop and R&B, 2000), along with two hits - Mariah Carey
's #1 pop and R&B "Heartbreaker" (on which he rapped) and "Do It Again (Put Ya Hands Up)" (#17 R&B, 1999) - continued the winning trend. In December 1999 Jay-Z was charged with first-degree assault in the stabbing of record executive Lance "Un" Rivera . A new album, The Dynasty: Roc La Familia (#1 pop and R&B, 2001), included the hit "I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)" (#11 pop, #1 R&B, 2001).