Jay-Z and Kaye West are two of the biggest rappers around. Kanye actually got his start when he began producing for artists at Roc-A-Fella Records, which was co-founded by Jay-Z. Kanye is actually credited for helping breathe new life into Jay’s professional life after he collaborated with him on the 2001 album The Blueprint, in which Kanye was a producer.
Although the two mega-stars have had their differences over the years (rumor has it their wives Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian don’t get along), they’re continuing to dominate with their music. Yet despite their similar sounds, it turns out Kanye and Jay-Z had very different upbringings that got them where they are today. Keep reading to see twenty photos of the rappers before they found fame.
20 Jay-Z: Father Abandoned The Family
Nowadays, Jay-Z may be one of the wealthiest rappers in the industry. But the start sure didn’t grow up in the lap of luxury. Jay-Z’s father, Adnis Reeves, abandoned his wife and three children while the future celebrity was still young. According to Notable Biographies, his mother Gloria then raised the family as a single mom in the projects.
19 Jay-Z: His Family Always Struggled With Money
Since it was only his mother supporting him and his two siblings, Jay-Z’s family struggled financially during his childhood. “We were living in a tough situation, but my mother managed; she juggled,” the rapper revealed to Vanity Fair in 2013. “Sometimes we’d pay the light bill, sometimes we paid the phone, sometimes the gas went off.”
18 Jay-Z: He Dropped Out Of Highschool
With the size of his bank account, many fans may find it hard to believe that Jay-Z never finished high school. But the rapper dropped out of Trenton Central High School, located in Trenton, New Jersey, before his senior year. Jay-Z has hinted he had a substance problem that may have contributed to the decision.
17 Jay-Z: He Had Very Famous Classmates
Even though Jay-Z didn’t finish high school, it was still an important time in his life. Why? Because it was here that the future celebrity met many of the rappers he’d eventually collaborate with. According to Biography, some of Jay-Z’s classmates included The Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes, who both briefly attended George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School with Jay-Z.
16 Jay-Z: He Used To Be Involved In Illegal Activities
Not only has Jay-Z hinted in his music that he may have had a substance problem, but he’s also openly admitted to being the neighbourhood supplier. “I know about budgets. I was a […] dealer,” he told Vanity Fair in 2013. “To be in a […] deal, you need to know what you can spend, what you need to re-up.”
15 Jay-Z: He Accidentally Hurt His Brother When He Was 12
Jay-Z definitely had a rough childhood. He’s been open about being surrounded by chaos and poverty as a child. In one scary incident, the future celebrity actually harmed his brother in self-defence. At the time, his brother was acting erratically due to addictions. Jay-Z was only 12 at the time. “I thought my life was over. I thought I'd go to jail forever,” he told The Guardian about the experience.
14 Jay-Z: His Mom Eventually Came Out To Him
After many years of being in the closet, Jay-Z’s mother eventually revealed her feelings for women to the rapper when he was well into adulthood. Jay has spoken candidly about that moment, saying he was never prouder of his mom. “This was the first time we had the conversation,” he told Rolling Stone. “And the first time I heard her say she loved her partner. Like, ‘I feel like I love somebody.’
13 Jay-Z: His Nickname Inspired His Stage Name
Some fans will wonder where Jay-Z’s stage name comes from. After all, his legal name is Shawn Corey Carter, which doesn’t seem to have a connection. The rapper has revealed that the moniker Jay-Z was actually inspired by his childhood nickname, Jazzy, which we guess doesn’t sound as tough as his stage name.
12 Jay-Z: He Tried To Get His Mom To Retire
Considering how much sacrifice Jay-Z’s mother made for her family while he was growing up, it’s not surprising to hear that he wanted her to take a break once he became famous. However, his mother has revealed she didn’t want to stop working. "Jay had a problem with [me continuing to work after his success]," Gloria told USA Today. "He and his siblings eventually arranged a meeting to talk to me about retiring."
11 Jay-Z: He Founded A Charity With His Mom
In 2002, Jay-Z opened up a charity with his mother, which they called the Shawn Carter Foundation. According to Mama Mia, the charity is devoted to "helping individuals facing socio-economic hardships further their education at post-secondary institutions." Now that’s one way to use fame and fortune for good!
10 Kanye: Parents Split When He Was Young
Like many children, Kanye had to deal with his parents Donda and Ray West’s divorce when he was very young. His father ended up remarrying when he was 9-years old to Brenda Bentley. His mother, however, remained single until her passing in 2007.
9 Kanye: His Mom Was A College Professor
It’s likely that Kanye gets his love of learning from his mother, Dr. Donda West. His mom worked as a professor of English at Clark Atlanta University and was also the Chair of the English Department at Chicago State University. When she eventually retired, Kanye hired her as his manager.
8 Kanye: His Parents Pushed Him To Do Well In School
It’s not only the fact that Kanye loved learning that helped him become so bright at a young age. His step-mother has revealed that his parents always expected him get good grades. “He was a cute little boy and he was always very good at school — his mother and father demanded he excel,” she told Radar Online.
7 Kanye: He Started Rapping In The Third Grade
Kanye started showing his talent for all things musical at a young age. In fact, it’s been reported that he started rapping when he was only in the third grade. The celebrity then began writing music when he was only 13-years old, and was still in high school when he began making a profit off of his work.
6 Kanye: He Learned Mandarin As A Child
Kanye may get heat nowadays for being a bit eccentric, but there’s no denying that the celebrity has a knack for knowledge. According to Radar Online, Kanye loved learning new things as a child. His step-mother told the publication he was learning Mandarin before the age of 10.
5 Kanye: His Step-Mom Says He Was Well Mannered
Although Kanye is known for interrupting awards shows and making controversial statements nowadays, it sounds like he was a pretty relaxed kid. While speaking to Radar Online, his step-mother Brenda described him as “mild mannered” and said Kanye always referred to her as “Miss Brenda.”
4 Kanye: Spent The Summers With His Dad
Although Kanye lived with his mom full-time, he would often spend the entire summer with his father and step-mother. “He was with his father, so he knew he had to behave. Ray wasn't too strict as a dad, and it was summer – so that was playtime,” Brenda told Radar Online about their summers with Kanye.
3 Kanye: He Ran A Business In Elementary School
It sounds like Kanye has always had a knack for making money. In his mother’s book Raising Kanye, she revealed her son would get paid by classmates to perform. "He'd charge other kids to see him breakdance. He could spin on his head and everything,” she wrote. It’s no wonder he’s become a performer!
2 Kanye: He Always Had Chores To Do
Kim has admitted that Kanye keeps things cleaner than her- and it might have to do with the fact that he was expected to help out around the household as a child. “At home he did his chores like making his bed. He was well behaved and if he ever had a tantrum it would not last long,” his step-mom told Radar.
1 Kanye: He Always Wanted To Go To Museums
Need more evidence that Kanye loved learning as a kid? His step-mother has admitted one of his favourite things to do was visit museums. "Kanye loved museums and art. His father helped him develop sophisticated tastes," she explained. "He used to love animations, artsy stuff, not Disney. That was too mundane.”
Sources: Radar Online, Vanity Fair, Notable Biographies, Biography.com.