40 Photos of Jay-Z Through the Years

If American pop culture has perfected any one thing (besides careers with built-in timers and extravagantly expensive blockbusters), it is the rags to riches story. Whether we’re cheering Rocky on against Apollo Creed or toasting to the good life with Nas, our taste for those how can shout “look, ma! I made it!” never seems to sour.

While this passion for the underdog-made-millionaire doesn’t explain Jay-Z‘s continued success and relevance, it is an important and highly visible element of his narrative.

At the age of 43, Jay-Z has enjoyed a career far longer and more successful than most musicians, let alone rappers, could ever dream, building a catalog of well-received (and, occasionally, classic) albums into several lucrative businesses. Jay-Z the hustler birthed Jay-Z the businessman and, eventually, the icon standing next to the President of the United States. On that stage, the man most famous for his rap prowess looked every bit the part of a great cultural ambassador.

As Jay once said, “I’ve got a hustler’s spirit,” and that instatiable drive has carried him from Brooklyn’s streets to America’s boardrooms, where he cuts a comfortable, thoroughly modern figure.

Celebrate another year in the life of Shawn Carter with a look at his transformation from aspiring rapper to inspiring entrepreneur.