Shawn Corey Carter (born December 4, 1969), better known by his stage name Jay-Z, is an American rapper, record producer, entrepreneur, and occasional actor. He is one of the most financially successful hip hop artists and entrepreneurs in America, having a net worth of over $450 million as of 2010. He has sold approximately 50 million albums worldwide, while receiving thirteen Grammy Awards for his musical work, and numerous additional nominations. He is consistently ranked as one of the greatest rappers of all-time. He was ranked so by MTV in their list of The Greatest MCs of All-Time in 2006. Two of his albums, Reasonable Doubt (1996) and The Blueprint (2001) are considered landmarks in the genre with both of them being ranked in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Blender, included the former on their 500 CDs You Must Own Before You Die. Jay-Z co-owns the 40/40 Club, is part-owner of the NBA's New Jersey Nets and is also the creator of the line Rocawear. He is the former CEO of Def Jam Recordings, one of the three founders of Roc-A-Fella Records, and the founder of Roc Nation. As an artist, he holds the record for most number one albums by a solo artist on the Billboard 200 with eleven. Jay-Z also has had four number ones on the Billboard Hot 100, one as lead artist. He married American R&B superstar BeyoncÃ© Knowles on April 4, 2008. On December 11, 2009, Jay-Z was ranked as the 10th most successful artist of the 2000's by Billboard and ranking as the 5th top solo male artist and as the 4th top rapper behind Eminem, Nelly, and 50 Cent. Early life, Originally from Marcy Houses, a housing project in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City, the future "Jay-Z" then known as Shawn Carter, was abandoned by his father and in 1982, he shot his brother in the shoulder for stealing his jewelry. Carter attended Eli Whitney High School in Brooklyn, along with future rapper AZ, until it was closed down. After that he attended George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School in Downtown Brooklyn, with fellow future rappers The Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes, and Trenton Central High School in Trenton, New Jersey, but did not graduate. In his music he refers to having been involved in selling crack cocaine. According to his mother, Gloria Carter, her son Shawn used to wake his siblings up at night banging out drum patterns on the kitchen table. Eventually, she bought him a boom box for his birthday, sparking his interest in music. He began freestyling, writing lyrics, and followed the music of many artists popular at the time. In his neighborhood, Carter was known as "Jazzy", a nickname that eventually developed into his showbiz/stage name, "Jay-Z". The moniker is also an homage to his musical mentor, Jaz-O, as well as to the J/Z subway lines that have a stop at Marcy Avenue in Brooklyn. Jay-Z can briefly be heard on several of Jaz-O's early recordings in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including "The Originators" and "Hawaiian Sophie". Jay-Z was also involved in and won several battles with rapper LL Cool J in the early 90's as part of a plan to get a sought-after record deal. He first became known to a wide audience by being featured on the posse cut "Show and Prove" on the 1994 Big Daddy Kane album Daddy's Home. Jay-Z has been referred to as Big Daddy Kane's hype man during this period, though Kane explains that he didn't fill the traditional hype man role, instead Jay-Z "basically made cameo appearances on stage. When I would leave the stage to go change outfits, I would bring out Jay-Z and Positive K and let them freestyle until I came back to the stage". He made an appearance on a popular song by Big L, "Da Graveyard", and on Mic Geronimo's "Time to Build", which also featured early appearances by DMX, and Ja Rule in 1995. His first official rap single was called "I Can't Get With That", for which he released a music video. Music career, 1995-1997: Reasonable Doubt and In My Lifetime, Vol. 1: From the beginning of his professional recording career, when no major label gave him a record deal, Jay-Z, Damon Dash, and Kareem Biggs created Roc-A-Fella Records as their own independent label in 1995. After striking a deal with Priority to distribute his material, Jay-Z released his 1996 debut album Reasonable Doubt with beats from acclaimed producers such as DJ Premier and Super DJ Clark Kent and a notable appearance by The Notorious B.I.G.. The album reached number 23 on the Billboard 200, and was well-received by critics. This album would later be included in Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" as No.248 and eventually reach platinum status. After reaching a new distribution deal with Def Jam in 1997, Jay-Z released his follow-up In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. Executively produced by Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs, it sold better than his previous effort. Jay-Z later explained that the album was made during one of the worst periods of his life, he was reeling from the death of his close friend The Notorious B.I.G. The album was a personal revelation for Jay-Z as he spun the tale of his hard knock upbringing. The album's glossy production stood as a contrast to his first release, and some dedicated fans felt he had "sold out". However, the album did feature some beats from producers who had worked with him on Reasonable Doubt, namely DJ Premier and Ski. Like its predecessor, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 earned Platinum status in the United States. 1998-2000: Vol. 2..., criminal charges and mainstream success: In 1998, Jay-Z released Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life which spawned the biggest hit of his career at the time, "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)". He relied more on flow and wordplay, and he continued with his penchant for mining beats from the popular producers of the day such as Swizz Beatz, an upstart in-house producer for Ruff Ryders, and Timbaland. Other producers included DJ Premier, Erick Sermon, The 45 King, and Kid Capri. Charting hits from this album included "Can I Get A...", featuring Ja Rule and Amil, and "Nigga What, Nigga Who", also featuring Amil. Vol. 2 would eventually become Jay-Z's most commercially successful album; it was certified 5Ã Platinum in the United States and has to date sold over five million copies. The album went on to win a Grammy Award, although Jay-Z boycotted the ceremony protesting DMX's failure to garner a Grammy nomination. In 1999, Jay-Z dueted with Mariah Carey on "Heartbreaker", a song from her seventh album, Rainbow. In that same year, Jay-Z released Vol. 3... Life and Times of S. Carter, the album proved to be successful and sold over 3 million records.Vol. 3's most successful single was "Big Pimpin'", featuring UGK. Around the same time, Jay-Z was accused of stabbing record executive Lance "Un" Rivera for what Jay-Z perceived was Rivera's bootlegging of Vol. 3... Life and Times of S. Carter. The stabbing allegedly occurred at the record release party for Q-Tip's debut solo album Amplified at the Kit Kat Klub, a now defunct night club in Times Square, New York City, on December 9. Jay-Z's associates at the party were accused of causing a commotion within the club, which Jay-Z allegedly used as cover when he supposedly stabbed Rivera in the stomach with a five-inch (127 mm) blade. In his book Decoded, Jay-Z addresses his assault case. While he didn't apologize for his actions, he did express regret that the incident happened and attributed it to a loss of control, saying that there was no reason for him to get into a situation that put him and people who depended on him at risk. He also vowed to never get involved in a similar situation again. Jay-Z initially denied the incident and pleaded not guilty when a grand jury returned the indictment. Jay-Z and his lawyers contended he was nowhere around Rivera during the incident and they had witnesses and videotape evidence from the club that showed Jay-Z's whereabouts during the disturbance. Nevertheless, he later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge that resulted in a sentence of three years probation. In 2000, Jay-Z released The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, which was originally intended to become a compilation album for Roc-A-Fella artists but somehow turned into a Jay-Z album. The album helped to introduce newcomer producers The Neptunes, Just Blaze, Kanye West and Bink, which have all gone on to achieve notable success. This is also the first album where Jay-Z utilizes a more soulful sound than his previous albums. The Dynasty sold over two million units in the U.S. alone. 2001-02: Feud with Nas, The Blueprint and The Blueprint: In 2001, Jay-Z spoke out against Prodigy after he took an issue with a Jay-Z line from "Money, Cash, Hoes" that he felt were subliminal shots at Mobb Deep and referenced Mobb Deep's beef with Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg, and Death Row Records. He later performed a song "Takeover", at Summer Jam 2001, which initially attacked Prodigy and revealed photos of Prodigy dressed like Michael Jackson. A line at the end of "Takeover" referenced Nas, who criticized him on "We Will Survive". Nas responded with a diss track called "Ether" and almost instantly, Jay-Z added a verse to "Takeover" which dissed Nas and would start a feud between the two rappers. Jay-Z later released his sixth studio album The Blueprint which was later considered by many to be one of hip hop's "classic" albums, receiving the coveted 5 mic review from The Source magazine. Released during the wake of September 11 attacks, the album managed to debut at number one on the Billboard 200, selling more than 427,000 units; the album's success was overshadowed by the tragic event. The Blueprint has been certified 2x Platinum in the United States.The Blueprint was applauded for its production and the balance of "mainstream" and "hardcore" rap, receiving recognition from both audiences. The Blueprint was written in only two days.Eminem was the only guest rapper on the album, producing and rapping on the song "Renegade". Four of the thirteen tracks on the album were produced by Kanye West and represents one of West's first major breaks in the industry.The Blueprint includes the popular songs "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)", "Girls, Girls, Girls", "Jigga That Nigga" and "Song Cry". Jay-Z's next solo album was 2002's The Blueprint: The Gift & the Curse, a double-album. The album debuted on the Billboard 200 at number one, selling over 3 million units in the U.S. alone and surpassing The Blueprint. It was later reissued in a single-disc version, The Blueprint 2.1, which retained half of the tracks from the original. The album spawned two massive hit singles, "Excuse Me Miss" and "'03 Bonnie & Clyde", which featured Jay-Z's future wife BeyoncÃ© Knowles. "Guns & Roses", a track featuring rock musician Lenny Kravitz, and "Hovi Baby" were two successful radio singles as well. The album also contained the tracks "A Dream", featuring Faith Evans and the late The Notorious B.I.G.; and "The Bounce", featuring Kanye West. The Blueprint 2.1 featured tracks that do not appear on The Blueprint: The Gift & the Curse, such as "Stop", "La La La (Excuse Me Again)", "What They Gonna Do, Part II" and "Beware" produced by and featuring Panjabi MC. 2003-05: The Black Album and Collision Course: After returning from a trip in the south of France, Jay-Z announced work on his 8th studio album The Black Album at the opening of the first the 40/40 Club. He worked with several producers including Just Blaze, The Neptunes, Kanye West, Timbaland, Eminem, DJ Quik, 9th Wonder and Rick Rubin. Notable songs on the album included "What More Can I Say", "Dirt Off Your Shoulder", "Change Clothes", and "99 Problems". The Black Album has sold 3 million copies in the US. On November 25, 2003, Jay-Z held a concert at Madison Square Garden, which would later be the focus of his film Fade to Black. This concert was his "retirement party". All proceeds went to charity. Other performers included collaborators like The Roots (in the form of his backing band), Missy Elliott, Memphis Bleek, Beanie Siegel, Freeway, Mary J. Blige, BeyoncÃ©, Twista, Ghostface Killah, Foxy Brown, Pharrell and R. Kelly with special appearances by Voletta Wallace and Afeni Shakur, the mothers of The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur respectively. While Jay-Z had attested to a retirement from making new studio albums, various side projects and appearances soon followed. Included in these were a greatest hits record, mash-up projects and concert appearances with R. Kelly and Linkin Park. In 2004 Jay-Z collaborated with rock group Linkin Park. The project was named Collision Course, and contained a six track EP, as well as a making of . Some of the mash ups tracks were entitled "Dirt Off Your Shoulder/Lying From You", "Jigga What/Faint", and "Numb/Encore". "Numb/Encore" went on to win a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, and was performed with Linkin Park live at the Grammys, with a special appearance by Paul McCartney, who added verses from the song Yesterday. The EP sold over 1 million copies in the US. Jay-Z was the executive producer of Fort Minor's debut album The Rising Tied. Mike Shinoda got together with Jay-Z and Linkin Park bandmate Brad Delson to discuss what tracks should make the album. Later in 2004, Jay-Z was named president of Def Jam Records, which led to Jay-Z, Dash and Biggs selling their remaining interests in Roc-A-Fella Records and Jay-Z taking control of both of the companies. Reportedly this major industry move was prompted by disagreements between Jay-Z and Dash as to what direction Roc-A-Fella could undertake. The publicized split between Jay-Z, Dash and Biggs led to the former partners sending jabs at each other in interviews. 2005-07: "I Declare War", Kingdom Come and American Gangster: On October 27, 2005, Jay-Z headlined New York's Power 105.1 annual concert, Powerhouse. The concert was entitled the "I Declare War" concert leading to intense speculation in the weeks preceding the event on whom exactly Jay-Z would declare war. As he had previously "declared war" on other artists taking lyrical shots at him at other events, many believed that the Powerhouse show would represent an all-out assault by Jay-Z upon his rivals. The theme of the concert was Jay-Z's position as President and CEO of Def Jam, complete with an on-stage mock-up of the Oval Office. Many artists made appearances such as the old roster of Roc-A-Fella records artists, as well as Ne-Yo, Teairra Mari, T.I., Young Jeezy, Akon, Kanye West, Paul Wall, The LOX, and Diddy. At the conclusion of the concert, Jay-Z put many arguments to rest to the surprise of hip hop fans. The most significant development in this show was closure to the infamous hip hop rivalry between Jay-Z and Nas. The two former rivals shook hands and shared the stage together to perform Jay-Z's "Dead Presidents" blended with Nas's song "The World is Yours". Jay-Z returned with his comeback album on November 21, 2006 titled Kingdom Come. Jay-Z's comeback single, "Show Me What You Got", was leaked on the Internet in early October 2006, scheduled to be released later on that month, received heavy air-play after its leak, causing the FBI to step in and investigate. Jay-Z worked with video director Hype Williams, and the single's video was directed by F. Gary Gray. The album features producers such as Just Blaze, Pharrell, Kanye West, Dr. Dre and Coldplay's Chris Martin (single entitled "Beach Chair"). The first week saw 680,000 sales of the CD, which Entertainment Weekly said was "the highest single-week total in Jay's decade long career". This album has sold 2 million copies in the US. Jay-Z released his tenth album entitled American Gangster on November 6, 2007. After viewing the Ridley Scott film of the same name, he was heavily inspired to create a new "concept" album that depicts his experiences as a street-hustler. The album is not the film's official soundtrack, although it was distributed by Def Jam. Jay-Z's American Gangster depicts his life in correlation to the movie American Gangster. At the start of the album's first single, "Blue Magic", Jay-Z offers a dealer's manifesto while making references to political figures of the late 1980s with the lyric: "Blame Reagan for making me to into a monster, blame Oliver North and Iran-Contra, I ran contraband that they sponsored, before this rhymin' stuff we was in concert." Also notable about the "Blue Magic" music video was Jay-Z flashing 500 euro notes, in what Harvard Business School professor Rawi Abdelal has called a "turning point in American pop culture's response to globalization." The album has sold 1 million copies in the US. On December 24, 2007, Jay-Z stated that he would not remain at Def Jam as the company's President, and vacated the position effective of January 1, 2008. 2008-present: Glastonbury, new record deal, The Blueprint 3, Watch the Throne and follow-up: It was announced on February 2, 2008 that Jay-Z would headline the 2008 Glastonbury Festival, becoming the first major hip hop artist to headline the British festival. Tickets sold out before the opening of the festival. One of the more outspoken critics of his selection was Noel Gallagher of Oasis fame, who criticized the organizers of the festival for scheduling Jay-Z as a headliner for the traditionally guitar-driven festival, stating "I'm sorry, but Jay-Z? No chance. Glastonbury has a tradition of guitar music and even when they throw the odd curve ball in on a Sunday night you go 'Kylie Minogue?' I don't know about it. But I'm not having hip hop at Glastonbury. It's wrong." Controversy ensued in the months leading up to the event with artists, promoters and fans weighing in both for and against. Jay-Z responded to this saying, "We don't play guitars, Noel, but hip hop has put in its work like any other form of music. This headline show is just a natural progression. Rap music is still evolving. We have to respect each other's genre of music and move forward." In response to Gallagher's criticism, Jay-Z opened his Glastonbury set with a tongue-in-cheek cover of Oasis's iconic song "Wonderwall". His Glastonbury performance was heralded as a successful response to pre-festival criticism. He also headlined many other summer festivals in 2008, including Roskilde Festival in Denmark,Hove Festival in Norway and O2 Wireless Festival in London. During Kanye West's August 6, 2008 concert at Madison Square Garden, Jay-Z came out to perform a new song and he and Kanye proclaimed that it was to be on The Blueprint 3. On May 21, 2009, Jay-Z announced he would be parting ways with Def Jam, and had struck a multi-million dollar deal to sign with Live Nation, with whom he would start his Roc Nation imprint which would serve as a record label, talent/management agency, and music publishing company and also partnered up with production team Stargate to start a record label called StarRoc. Jay-Z's 11th studio album The Blueprint 3 was originally to be released on September 11, 2009 but was instead released in North America on September 8, 2009 due to increasing anticipation. Its international release followed on September 14. It is his 11th album to reach No.1 on the Billboard 200 and has surpassed Elvis Presley's previous record, making him the current record holder. On October 9, 2009, Jay-Z kicked off his tour for The Blueprint 3, during which he supported his new album in North America. In a Shave Magazine review of his performance at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Jake Tomlinson expressed that "It was the type of smooth performance you would expect from the hip-hop superstar." The review gave this performance 4 stars. His North American tour continued until November 22, 2009. At his concert on November 8, 2009 at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion, Rihanna joined him on stage and performed "Hard" for the very first time, then performed "Run This Town" with Jay-Z. Among his success, Jay-Z has ventured into producing Broadway shows. Along with Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith, Jay-Z helped produced the play Fela!, a musical celebrating the work of the late Nigerian star Fela Kuti. Jay-Z said he was inspired by the power of Kuti's work and his life story, which resulted in his interest to help produce the musical.Fela! is a story about an African pioneer and political activist who made his first moves on the scene during the 1970s. On January 23, 2010, Jay-Z released a track, "Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour)", with Rihanna, and U2's Bono and The Edge, as well as performing it at the Hope For Haiti Now telethon. In June 2010, Eminem and Jay-Z announced they would perform together in a pair of concerts in Detroit and New York. The event was dubbed The Home & Home Tour. The first two concerts rapidly sold out, prompting the scheduling of an additional show at each venue. Jay-Z was the supporting act for U2 on the Australian and New Zealand leg of their U2 360Â° Tour, beginning in Auckland, New Zealand in November 2010, followed by Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth in December. He also appeared on stage during U2 performances of "Sunday Bloody Sunday", and in Auckland also joined the band for a performance of "Scarlet", singing some lines of his song, "History". In August 2010, it was revealed that Jay-Z and Kanye West would be collaborating on a five-track EP entitled Watch the Throne. Although, it was later revealed by West that the project had become a full-length LP. Recording sessions for the album took place at various recording locations and began in November 2010. The first single released for the project was "Hâ¢Aâ¢M". The track was co-produced by Lex Luger and West himself. The track ended up being on the deluxe edition of the album. The follow-up to that was the second single "Otis", which premiered on Funkmaster Flex's Hot 97 radio show, and was later released to the iTunes Store eleven days later. The song's existence, along with several other tracks from the album, was confirmed during a listening session hosted by Jay-Z. The album was first released on the iTunes Store, five days prior to it being released in physical format, a strategy Jay-Z later said was used to block an internet leak. It debuted at #1 on the iTunes Store in 23 countries. It also broke Coldplay's record for most albums sold in one week on the online retailer, selling 290,000 copies on iTunes alone. It held that record, until Lil Wayne's Tha Carter IV was released twenty-one days later, selling only 10,000 copies more. It debuted on the US Billboard 200 chart at #1, selling 436,000 copies in its first week. The album received generally positive reviews. Jay-Z and West later gave a surprise performance of "Otis" at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards. In April 2011, Jay-Z launched a blog-like, lifestyle website by the name of Life + Times. It covers everything from music, to fashion, to technology, to sports. The site is curated based on Jay-Z's interests, and he himself works with a small staff to produce every single piece of content. On September 23, 2010, Q-Tip confirmed working on Jay-Z's follow up album to The Blueprint 3, saying the album was to hit stores by spring 2011. The album still remains unreleased however it has been confirmed 3 songs have been recorded and one of which features Frank Ocean. Musical style, Influences: Jay-Z that states his earliest exposure to music was through his parents' record collection, which was mostly of soul artists such as Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway. He says "I grew up around music, listening to all types of people... I'm into music that has soul in it, whether it be rap, R&B, pop music, whatever. As long as I can feel their soul through the wax, that's what I really listen to." He often uses excerpts from these artists as samples in his work, particularly in the Kanye West-productions included on The Blueprint. Rapping technique: Royce da 5'9" and Fredro Starr of Onyx both describe Jay-Z's emphasis on flow in the book How to Rap - Starr says that Jay-Z is "a master of the flow--he can flow fast, he can flow slow". The book describes how Jay-Z uses 'rests' to provide structure to a verse and how he uses 'partial linking' to add more rhymes to a verse. Jay-Z's early style is described by Vibe as "a distinctly Das EFX-type, stiggety style" on his 12" single "Can't Get With That", referring to the fast rhythms and vocal delivery of the group Das EFX. He is also known to write lyrics in his head, as described by Pusha T of Clipse in How to Rap, a style popular with many MCs such as The Notorious B.I.G.,Everlast,Bobby Creekwater and Guerilla Black.Shock G of Digital Underground describes Jay-Z's performance style, saying he "rarely breaks a sweat, and instead uses smoothness and clever wordplay to keep the audience interested and entertained". Business ventures, Jay-Z has also established himself as an entrepreneur like his fellow hip hop moguls and friends, Russell Simmons, Dr. Dre and Sean "Diddy" Combs, who also have business holdings such as record companies and clothing lines. In an interview, he stated that "my brands are an extension of me. They're close to me. It's not like running GM, where there's no emotional attachment." He is the founder of the urban clothing brand Rocawear along with Damon Dash. Rocawear has clothing lines and accessories for men, women and children. The line was taken over by Jay-Z in early 2006 following a falling out with Dash. In March 2007, Jay-Z sold the rights to the Rocawear brand to Iconix Brand Group, for $204 million. Jay-Z will retain his stake in the company and will continue to oversee the marketing, licensing and product development. He also co-owns the 40/40 Club, an upscale sports bar that started in New York City and has since expanded to Atlantic City and Chicago. In 2008, the 40/40 club in Las Vegas was closed down and bought back by the hotel after attendance steadily declined. Future plans will see 40/40 Clubs in Tokyo and Singapore. In 2005, Jay-Z became an investor in Carol's Daughter, a line of beauty products, including products for hair, skin, and hands. Jay-Z serves as co-brand director for Budweiser Select and collaborates with the company on strategic marketing programs and creative ad development. He provides direction on brand programs and ads that appear on TV, radio, print, and high-profile events. He is also yet to expand his 40/40 Club sports bar in as many as 20 airports, as he makes deals with his business partners, Juan and Desiree Perez. He is a part-owner of the New Jersey Nets NBA team paying a reported $4.5 million for his share. He is interested in relocating the team to Brooklyn. In October 2005, he was reported in English media as considering buying a stake of Arsenal F.C., an English soccer team. He has also invested in a real estate development venture called J Hotels which recently acquired a $66 million mid-block parcel in Chelsea, New York. Jay-Z and his partners are contemplating constructing a high-end hotel or an art gallery building on the newly acquired site which has the potential to go up about twelve stories. Through his company Gain Global Investments Network LLC, had an interest estimated between 2 and 7% in the Aqueduct Entertainment Group (AEG) consortium which in January 2010 was awarded a contract to operate a 4,500 slot machine racino at the Aqueduct Race Track. Jay-Z became interested in the project after New York Governor David Paterson who awarded the contract said there had to be an affirmative action component to the ownership. Jay-Z initially approached Steve Wynn who was also bidding on the contract. On March 9, 2010, Jay-Z and Flake withdrew from the project and Paterson recused himself from further involvement. On November 16, 2010, Jay-Z published a memoir entitled Decoded. Personal life, Relationship with BeyoncÃ©: Jay-Z's most public relationship has been with American R&B singer BeyoncÃ© Knowles. In 2002, Jay-Z and Knowles collaborated for the song "'03 Bonnie & Clyde". Jay-Z also appeared on Knowles' hit single "Crazy In Love" and as well as "That's How You Like It" from her debut Dangerously in Love. On her second album, B'Day, he made appearances on the 2006 hits, "DÃ©jÃ Vu" and "Upgrade U". In the video for the latter song, she comically imitates his appearance. The couple generally avoid discussing their relationship. Knowles has stated that she believes that not publicly discussing their relationship has helped them. Jay-Z said in a People article, "We don't play with our relationship." They keep a low public profile despite being photographed at New Jersey Nets home and while on vacation in Cannes in 2007. On April 4, 2008, it was reported by People that Knowles and Jay-Z had been married at a private ceremony in New York City. It became a matter of public record on April 22, 2008, but Knowles did not publicly debut her $5 million Lorraine Schwartz-designed wedding ring until the Fashion Rocks concert on September 5, 2008 in New York City. Knowles and Jay-Z were listed as the most powerful couple for TIME magazine's 100 most influential people of 2006. In January 2009, Forbes ranked them as Hollywood's top-earning couple, with a combined total of $162 million. They also made it to the top of the list the following year, with a combined total of $122 million between June 2008 and June 2009. At the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, BeyoncÃ© revealed that she is pregnant with her and Jay-Z's first child. Her representative confirmed the news that night. They're expecting a girl. Philanthropy: During his retirement, Jay-Z also became involved in philanthropic activity. On August 9, 2006, he met with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan at the organization's headquarters in New York City. The rapper pledged to use his upcoming world tour to raise awareness of and combat global water shortage. Already on the look-out for a way to, in his own words, "become helpful", he had been made aware of this issue during a visit to Africa. The effort took place in partnership with the UN, as well as MTV, which produced a documentary entitled Diary of Jay-Z: Water for Life, first airing in November 2006. Along with Sean "Diddy" Combs, Jay-Z pledged $1 million to the American Red Cross' relief effort after Hurricane Katrina. Jay-Z stated his support for Kanye West after the latter's outburst against President Bush during a live Katrina charity telethon. He also addressed the issue of the Katrina disaster, and the government's response, in his song "Minority Report". Politics: Jay-Z got actively involved in politics during the 2008 presidential campaign, where he supported increased voter participation and helped send voters to polling stations. He was an early supporter for the candidacy of Illinois senator and subsequent U.S. president Barack Obama, performing for free in voter-drive concerts financed by the Democrats' campaign. In the process, he's become personally acquainted with Obama himself, who stated "Every time I talk to Jay-Z, who is a brilliant talent and a good guy, I enjoy how he thinks. That's somebody who is going to start branching out and can help shape attitudes in a real positive way." During the 2010 mid-term elections' campaign, Jay-Z appeared, along with other artists, in an ad prepared by the HeadCount organization, urging voters, and especially younger ones, to register and vote.