|Longtime rap fans may remember Jay-Z as an associate of the Jaz, who had a minor hit in 1988 with "Hawaiian Sophie." Before that, he was Shawn Carter, a young man from Brooklyn's Marcy Projects. Though Carter was a promising student, his wild behavior led him to a vocational high school in Brooklyn, where he met future stars Christopher Wallace (the Notorious B.I.G.) and Trevor Smith (Busta Rhymes). As a young MC, Jay-Z appeared on several underground mix tapes, and his work with the Jaz appeared promising. But with bills to pay, Jay-Z increasingly found himself mired in the criminal underworld, a life he had known since the age of 16. It wasn't until 1992 that he found the courage to leave the life of a drug dealer behind him. After his retirement from crime, Jay-Z began to look for a record deal as a solo artist, but only had a guest appearance on long-forgotten rap group Original Flavor's 1993 single "Can I Get Open" to show for his efforts. It wasn't until a friend, Roc-A-Fella Records CEO Damon Dash, convinced him to form a record company with him that Jay-Z's career finally got off the ground. Jay-Z released his first single through Roc-A-Fella in 1995, "In My Lifetime." It proved to be a hit in New York's fickle hip-hop scene, and helped Dash and Jay-Z secure a distribution deal for Jay-Z's debut album, Reasonable Doubt. Though it wasn't a huge seller, Reasonable Doubt confirmed Jay-Z's status as one of the most promising lyricists in years, a rapper who vividly portrayed the highs and lows of being a black gangster. More importantly, it earned the admiration of veteran rap stars as varied as Ice Cube and the Notorious B.I.G. The next year, Jay-Z and Dash negotiated a new distribution deal with Def Jam Records for Roc-A-Fella. The ascendant rapper had promised that Reasonable Doubt would be his only album, but he followed it up in 1997 with In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, a somber effort partly influenced by the murder of the Notorious B.I.G. Two subsequent albums (Vol. 2 Hard Knock Life and The Life And Times Of S. Carter) followed. With his latest--Dynasty--Roc La Familia--released in October 2000, the only one thing to be said is you know what to expect from the God MC the Jay-Hova. He never fails. Do you believe? All Shawn Carter wanted to do is reach his people. So all Jay-Hova witnesses keep believing.