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Among the most notable hip-hop acts to come from New York City is Jay-Z. The Brooklyn-based mogul has climbed up from a dire childhood to now be married to Beyonce, the reigning Queen of Pop, and boast a vast empire including real estate, a record label, a streaming service, a clothing line, and more.

Born Shawn Carter in 1969, Jay Z grew up with his mother and three siblings in a housing project after their father left the scene. From a very early age, Jay Z was musically inclined and very much enjoyed wordplay and language. However, struggling with poverty, young Shawn turned to selling drugs and becoming heavily involved in the underground drug trade. As he pursued rapping as a passion, he learned a lot of business acumen, management, and cutthroat tactics from his time dealing drugs. In more recent interviews, Jay Z has expressed his regret for actively making money from the destruction of his community but is thankful for the lessons he heard.  

Multiple albums, numerous record deals, and countless features later, Jay Z and his wife have become the power couple to be reckoned with and have used their fame and wealth to bring attention to some important social issues and fund a few big moments in hip-hop and US history at large. Here’s a short rundown of the cultural influence Jay-Z and his family have had:

Music Stylings: Jay Z’s rapping style is highly syncopated with a fast flow and strategic pauses that allow for more structure. Having established a unique style, other rappers followed suit, and Jay-Z’s influences can be heard from artists from Kanye West to Alicia Keys. His signature sound has become synonymous with Brooklyn, and his hit song “Empire State of Mind” Can be heard at every Yankees game.

College Funding: Jay-Z and Beyonce are both passionate about funding higher education for low-income students who want to pursue a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree, especially from a Historically Black College or University (HBCU). Through the Shawn Carter Foundation, Jay-Z and his mother have helped subsidize if not fully cover the cost of secondary education for eager young adults who need financial assistance.

Smart Financial Decision: In addition to his appearances on the Billboard Top 100, Jay-Z has diversified his assets and enjoys a comfortable income as a result. An entrepreneur who scraped his way out of a miserable situation, Jay is now a huge advocate for financial literacy and better money practices for others stuck in poverty. In his music, he discusses the importance of ensuring financial stability for generations to come and marketing one’s talents.

Support for Families Affected by Gun Violence: After the tragic and untimely death of Trayvon Martin, Beyonce and Jay Z have together helped to support Sybrina Fulton, his mother, as she tours the planet advocating for an end to racism and violence in general. The power couple has helped her to host events and has appeared at gatherings to support and uplift moms who have lost children to street violence.