Bird & Animal Names In Rock 'n' Roll History - Part 12

Jay-Z, and the Dixie Hummingbirds
Rap music artist Snoop Dogg and folk-rock band The Byrds

Robert writes about rock & pop music, and vinyl record collecting.

Let's continue our article series here at DigitalDreamDoor about "bird" and "animal" names in rock and roll history.

Part 12


One of the most dynamic, outspoken and successful businessman/rapper/R&B stars is Jay-Z. After appearing as a guest on a release by Big Jaz and Original Flavor, Jay-Z released the first of many super successful albums called "Reasonable Doubt" (number twenty-three on the pop charts and number three on the rap charts in 1996). Blending his street smarts with popular rap and savvy business decisions, Jay-Z has become one of rock/rap's elite personalities.

Originally from the Marcy Houses housing projects in Brooklyn, New York, Shawn Corey Carter (born 12/04/69) picked up the nickname "Jazzy," which eventually was shortened and developed into his stage name "Jay-Z." The name also pays homage to his musical mentor, Jaz-O (Jay-Z's voice can be heard on many of Jaz-O'z recordings in the late 80's and early 90's) as well as to the J-Z subway lines from his old neighborhood.

Jay-Z on Rolling Stone magazine cover
After his initial release, Jay-Z released his sophomore album entitled "In My Lifetime, Vol. 1" (1997) and in 1998, volume two called "Hard Knock Life," which allowed the rapper to totally dominate the pop charts (volume two has been certified platinum five times and has sold more than eight million copies worldwide). The release included the cut "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)", which peaked at number fifteen on the Billboard Top 40 charts. The rapper embarked on a very successful tour and has also aided in boosting the careers of such protégés as Ja Rule, Memphis Bleek and Beanie Sigel. Additionally, the album won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album.

"Volume Three" was released in 1999 (The Life and Times of S. Carter) and also secured platinum status (three times) and sold well over six million copies worldwide (number one pop and R&B in 2000). Jay-Z also appeared on Mariah Carey's number one Billboard Top 40 hit called "Heartbreaker." But, the year also brought turmoil; as Jay-Z was accused of stabbing record executive Lance "Un" Rivera. Although he initially denied involvement in the crime, he later pled guilty to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to three years probation.

But, music is not Jay-Z's only forte. As previously mentioned, this savvy businessman co-founded the urban clothing brand "Rocawear" (1999), is a part owner of the NBA New Jersey Nets, co-founded Roc-A-Fella Records and is a co-owner of the 40/40 Club, an upscale sports bar that originated in New York City and has expanded into Atlantic City (future plans include clubs in L.A., Las Vegas and Singapore).

But, back to the music. In 2000, the legendary rapper released the album entitled "The Dynasty Roc La Famila," which was intended to be a compilation album and to introduce new artists such as Amil, and the previously mentioned Memphis Bleek and Beanie Sigel. But even with these newcomers, the album had Jay-Z's name associated with it and it went on to sell more than two million copiers in the U.S. alone.

In 2001, Jay-Z's next album "The Blueprint," is considered by many to be one of hip hop's classic releases, selling more than 450,000 copies in the first week. The album was a very successful "crossover" hit, achieving a perfect balance of mainstream music and hardcore rap. Rapper Eninem appeared on the single "Renegade" and the album also features the singles "Takeover" and the popular cut "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)." The album was certified double-platinum in the U.S.

"The Blueprint The Gift and the Curse" was Jay-Z's next album (a double LP 2002) and the release sold more than four million copies in the U.S. alone. The album spawned two big hits, "Excuse Me Miss" and "03 Bonnie and Clyde," the latter featuring Jay-Z's girlfriend at the time, Beyonce Knowles (it was later re-issued on a single disc called "The Blueprint 2.1"). Other notable singles included "Gun N' Roses," featuring Lenny Kravitz, the popular track "Hovi Baby," "A Dream," which featured Faith Evans and a recording of the late Notorious B.I.G. and the cut entitled "The Bounce," featuring Kayne West.

In 2003, "The Black Album" was released and it was announced that this was to be Jay-Z's last recording. Notable songs included "Dirt Off Your Shoulder," "Change Clothes," "What More Can I Say" and "99 Problems." In November of 2003, Jay-Z performed at Madison Square Garden and this concert was his "retirement" party. And, although he retired from making new studio albums, Jay-Z kept very busy working on other projects including a greatest hits release and concert appearances with R. Kelly, Lincoln Park and Phish.

Retirement was short-lived as Jay-Z returned to music scene in 2006 with a release called "Kingdom Come." His single, "Show Me What You Got" received heavy airplay (the album sold more than two million copies in the U.S.) and was leaked on the Internet in early October 2006, scheduled to be released later on that month causing the FBI to step in and investigate.

Jay-Z released his tenth album entitled "American Gangster" on November 6, 2007, being inspired after viewing the film of the same name. 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." Another amazing hit for the rapper, the album was certified 2x Platinum by the RIAA.

No one knows what the future holds, but this legendary rapper and musician is certainly revered and respected in the music world and his best work may be to come.

Dixie Hummingbirds

The seminal music group, the Dixie Hummingbirds were a leading Southern black gospel quartet for over fifty years and have been an instrumental and influential force in the development of soul music.

Formed in 1928 by James Davis, the group made their first record in 1939 for Decca Records. Later that year the group added lead singer Ira Tucker and William Bobo. Tucker not only brought an elegant and powerful voice to the group, his energetic showmanship (running up and down the aisles, jumping off the stage, falling to his knees in prayer) is legendary. Tucker also took the group on adventurous harmonic journeys (which the group coined as "trickeration") as well as taking the lead in the stylistic innovations and lush soundscapes that made them a popular attraction.

Dixie Hummingbirds gospel quartet
After relocating to Philadelphia in the 1940's, the group recorded for a number of record labels and were regulars on radio and the Northeast Gospel Circuit. The legendary recording group also influenced many other artists, some even imitating their resourcefulness and live energy they were famous for (including James Brown and Jackie Wilson). The group also performed at the Newport Folk Festival in 1966.

But, they are best remembered as the backup singers for Paul Simon's 1973 Billboard Top 40 hit "Loves Me Like A Rock," a song that garnered the band a Grammy Award for Best Gospel Performance. The expressive and iconic group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2007 for their album "Still Keeping It Real."

Look for part thirteen of this interesting article series coming soon to DigitalDreamDoor!

Jay-Z Tidbits:

Jay-Z also, along with Sean "Diddy" Combs, pledged $1 million to the American Red Cross' relief effort after Hurricane Katrina. Jay-Z also 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").

Controversary seems to follow Jay-Z and on February 1, 2008 it was announced that Jay-Z would headline the 2008 Glastonbury Festival. Tickets failed to sell out with 'only' 100,000 being sold - out of a possible 137,500 and as the festival sold out in 2 hours the previous year, critics were quick to blame the choice of a hip hop artist as opposed to a rock band as the main problem. In fact, Oasis' Noel Gallagher criticised the organizers of the festival for scheduling Jay-Z as a headliner for the traditionally guitar-driven concert.

Jay-Z opened his set at the 2008 Glastonbury Festival with a cover of Oasis' classic "Wonderwall."

Jay-Z's most public relationship has been with R&B singer Beyoncé Knowles, a former member of Destiny's Child and on April 4, 2008, Knowles and Jay-Z were married in New York City.

Dixie Hummingbirds Tidbits:

In February 2008, the first feature length documentary/concert film featuring the history of the Dixie Hummingbirds was released in commemoration of their extraordinary eighty years as performers. The Dixie Hummingbirds: Eighty Years Young has been shown on the Gospel Music Channel and has played at numerous film festivals.

James Davis retired in 1984. He died of a heart ailment in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (April 17, 2007)

Sadly, Ira Tucker, Sr also passed away (June 24, 2008 at the age of 83). The group will continue on, thereby preserving the rich legacy left by Tucker, James Davis, William Bobo, Beachey Thompson, James Walker, Howard Carroll, et al. and will continue onward with possible new additions to their personnel down the road.

The Dixie Hummingbirds were inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 2007 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2000.

Article by: Robert Benson

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