He's a music mogul with a fashion company grossing a couple of hundred million a year and married to one of the hottest women on the planet, but 'Mr Beyonce' is very much his own man
JAY-Z has been called 'the CEO of Cool' and is one of the wealthiest rappers in the world. TV star Jonathan Ross has no shortage of kind words to say about him. "Jay's been on my show a few times and I've always thought he's a smart, reserved and cool kind of guy, but cool in a way that comes from knowing your worth and your ability, rather than cool that comes from just thinking you're cool."
Ross rhapsodised about the music mogul in a recent issue of a men's magazine: "He's someone who knows his worth is based on his talent, rather than just having had a few hits and made a bit of money."
Oprah Winfrey is also part of the media crew love-bombing the rapper and businessman, who is Beyonce's husband. When she had him on her show recently she didn't push him to talk about his wife, in spite of her primarily female audience. Instead the Queen of America's airways let Jay-Z show a film of the inside of the headquarters of his fashion company Rocawear, which grosses a couple of hundred million each year.
There was a lot of footage of the clothes which are part of the backbone of Jay-Z's empire. And when you see Oprah, who has a net worth of €1.8bn, do serious respect instead of touchy-feely, you know she considers the person sitting opposite her to also inhabit her financial orbit.
Hip-hop artist Jay-Z wasn't especially charismatic on her show. And if Jonathan Ross finds him reserved and cool, Oprah clearly found him modest. She encouraged him to talk more about his rise from a housing project in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbourhood of Brooklyn in New York City -- reputedly he sold drugs and shot his brother in the arm for stealing his favourite jewellery -- to the gilded world of success, loads of dosh and privilege.
There has always been something for everyone in the audience when it comes to Jay-Z and Beyonce; sing Jay-Z's rap lyrics and you probably also envy Beyonce's athletic beauty. Or like Jay-Z's gangsta-style fashion line and you probably also dance to Beyonce's shake-your-booty songs.
Music's dynamo couple (they earned more last year than Victoria and David Beckham), in the same exalted way Barack and Michelle are the globe's golden couple, and Angelina and Brad are Hollywood's most influential couple, they have a united policy in giving little away about their personal life. On the financial side, it's reported that Jay-Z took a 57pc pay cut last year.
According to Forbes, Jay-Z pulled in an estimated €28m in 2009, but still topped their annual list of Hip-Hop Cash Kings. However, it's a far cry from the €66m he made in 2008, and the reason given is the downturn in the global economy -- fewer people buying music and fashion.
Beyonce experienced no such loss of income last year and, instead, she dropped a double album, starred in two films, performed at both the Oscars and Obama's presidential inaugural ball and embarked on a 110-date international tour.
She also expanded a fashion collection that includes casual and formal lines as well as jewellery and eyeglasses, and added sponsors Nintendo, Crystal Geyser and General Mills to a roster of endorsers already including L'Oreal, Giorgio Armani and Samantha Thavasa handbags.
She made an estimated €70m, and this dramatic outpassing of her husband doesn't reflect the pre-nuptial agreement reportedly signed by the couple before they married in 2008. The pre-nup calls for Jay-Z to pay Beyonce €8m if the marriage ends after two years, and a million a year for every extra year she remains in the marriage, up to 15 years.
It's a time when we love hard work, and love people who reap the rewards of hard work, and when two highly driven and very hard-working people come together, and are mega successful at what they do, what's not to like?
Jay-Z and Beyonce represent the pinnacle in the showbiz world of power couples -- matched if not in earnings then definitely in ambition -- and made greater than the sum of their individual success by an ability to complement each other's stratospheric rise and global domination.
Jay-Z provides mainstream R&B artist Beyonce with a bit of street cred, while the commercially successful Beyonce has made her husband's music accessible to a new legion of fans.
Plus they stand alone in a way many powerful couples don't -- part Posh Spice and Beckham and they both invariably lose some of their power.
Ross said of Jay-Z, who has had 11 number-one albums: "The first time I met him I didn't realise he was Mr Beyonce, which is interesting because, in most cases when someone has such a mainstream artist partner, you'd be aware of it. I don't know if it's deliberate, but it's clear his career isn't about her.
"Musically I think he has brilliant arranging skills. The way he puts different words, sounds and textures together is anything but straightforward and more complex than it appears," Ross wrote.
You won't get Jay-Z talking about his wife; for a couple selling the dream, they have a pact not to sell their romance. Beyonce has said: "I'm a singer, I'll talk about writing songs all you want. But when it comes to certain personal things any normal person wouldn't tell people they don't know, I just feel like I don't have to talk about it."
Cool is subjective, and whether, like Ross, you consider Jay-Z the epitome of cool, or instead consider him a self-made megastar who has achieved phenomenal control over all aspects of his life, what's certain is a sense of humour saves one of the most financially successful hip-hop artists and entrepreneurs in America -- Jay-Z had a net worth of more than €120m last year and has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide -- from sometimes looking like he takes himself too seriously.
He hit back at Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher when he questioned his selection to play at the Glastonbury festival (because a hip-hop artist was wrong for the world famous rock festival), with the following rhyme: "That bloke from Oasis said I couldn't play guitar/Somebody should have told him I'm a f**king rock star."