J-Live (born Jean-Jacques Cadet and also commonly known as Justice Allah) is an East Coast rapper, producer, and DJ who has been actively creating music since the mid-90s. J-Live began gaining notoriety following the release of his 1995 single “Bragging Writes”, going on to make his official debut six years later with the release of his first full-length, The Best Part. Although his project was delayed for four years due to label constraints and other frustrating logistic issues, production from luminaries such as DJ Premier, Pete Rock, and Prince Paul made the wait well worth it, enabling him to win over the attention of underground hip-hop fans from the jump while he was working as an English middle school teacher in Brooklyn. Although he is better known for his emceeing than he is for his deejaying, he routinely uses his energetic live Show to show off his talents on the turntables rhyming and beat-juggling simultaneously to entertain and captivate audiences. Consistently releasing music over the past two decades, J-Live has since gone on to tour the world, proving that The Source magazine was wise to offer him an early cosign in their coveted “Unsigned Hype” column. He also has previously lent his talents to a who’s who array of underground hip-hop artists and legends alike, collaborating with the likes of DJ Jazzy Jeff, Rob Swift, Soulive, Apathy, R.A. The Rugged Man, Homeboy Sandman, Oddisee and more. In his own words, J-Live represents hip-hop’s middle class, creating quality rap records for the “everyday hard-working, fun-loving hip-hop heads.”

Jay Z (born Shawn Corey Carter) embodies the kind of fairytale rags-to-riches stories that propels the start of rap careers. From his early days of drug dealing on the streets of New York City, to his Rise as a platinum-selling rapper to becoming the first ever rapper ever inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, Shawn Carter always seemed one step ahead of the rest.

Born on December 4th, 1969 in Brooklyn, New York, the future rapper grew up in the Marcy Houses where his love for rap began to manifest. His formative years found the burgeoning rapper being mentored by Jaz-O and featured on records with Big Daddy Kane, Big L, and Mic Geronimo.

In 1995, Carter teamed up with Kareem Biggs and Damon Dash to create the then independent, Roc-A-Fella Records. Following the release of the rapper’s platinum-selling debut, Reasonable Doubt, the Roc-A-Fella trio brokered a deal with Def Jam Records for distribution. Under that deal, Jay Z would release six platinum-selling albums, including the renowned classic The Blueprint before his proposed “retirement” in 2003. The Black Album, another platinum-selling album, would serve as a closer to the first act of his career and the beginning of the second act as a full-time mogul.

During the time that The Blueprint became a critical and commercial success, a beef that had been brewing between Carter and Nas began to take full-form. The beef birthed the kick-off album track, “Takeover,” that not only took aim at Nas but also Prodigy of Mobb Deep. Nas responded with a diss track of his own, “Ether,” and sparked a feud that had many critics and fans on the edge of their seats. In 2005, the two rappers made peace which culminated in Nas signing with Def Jam in 2006.

Shawn Carter became the President of Island Def Jam Records where he catapulted the careers of artists like Ne-Yo and Rihanna. Various other business endeavors during this time included the 40/40 Club, part-ownership of the Brooklyn Nets NBA team, the team’s relocation to the Brooklyn, and various real estate deals.

After his tenure at Def Jam, Jay Z founded Roc Nation, a full-service entertainment company with divisions in the music world and sports world. Still, Jay’s business endeavors were never able to quench his thirst for the mic. After only three years, he began recording again in 2006, making his retirement a short-lived one.

His latest album, 2013’s Magna Carta Holy Grail, was a commercial success debuting at #1 and selling over 1 million copies.  In 2017, Jay Z was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, making him the first rapper to be chosen for the honor. He continues to appear on tracks (especially with wife Beyoncé) while teasing the possibility of more projects of his own.

First forming in 1993 in Los Angeles, CA, Jurassic 5 is a six-piece hip-hop collective comprised of rappers Chali 2na (Charles Stewart), Akil (Dante Givens), Zaakir (Courtenay Henderson), Marc 7 (Marc Stewart), and DJs Cut Chemist (Lucas Macfadden), and DJ Nu-Mark (Mark Potsic). Together, Jurassic 5 made their debut in 1997 with their self-titled EP, leading to their signing with Interscope Records. Their first EP was later repackaged with additional tracks and released as a full-length album under the same name in 1998. As they picked up steam as a reputable group in the underground hip-hop scene, they also broke through to a larger audience with their music being featured in several video games, including 2003’s Tony Hawk’s Underground, NBA Live 06 and NBA Live 07.

The group went on to release three other full-length albums through Interscope, with their last two projects both peaking at the No. 15 slot on the Billboard 200 charts. Prior to the release of their fourth and final album Feedback, Cut Chemist left the group to pursue a solo career, with Jurassic 5 officially splitting ways a year later in 2007—citing musical differences. Much to the delight of their underground fan base, each of the original members of Jurassic 5 reunited to perform at Coachella in 2014, with the festival date launching a subsequent international tour for the newly reunited group. While each of the group’s members continues to release music on an individual scale—Nu-Mark’s 2014 EP with Pharcyde member Slimkid3 being the most recent—the future of the group currently is up for speculation.

Jedi Mind Tricks is a duo from Philadelphia, consisting of rapper Vinnie Paz and producer Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind, and at times, rapper Jus Allah. JMT has a devout underground following, and are best known for their imagery with superhero and mythological themes—combined with hardcore rap.

The trio met in high school and decided to form a group, making their debut in 1996 with the Amber Probe EP, sans Allah, who had left for college. They followed up with their full-length debut the next year, The Psycho-Social, Chemical, Biological, And Electro-Magnetic Manipulation Of Human Consciousness. It was released under their own indie label, Superregular Recordings.

Vinnie had previously birthed the idea to form a rotating super-group of rappers and named it the Army of the Pharaohs, and after JMT’s debut dropped, AofP put out their first release, The Five Perfect Exertions EP—featuring Virtuoso, 7L & Esoteric, Chief Kamachi, Bahamadia, and Vinnie. This project was then remixed and released as JMT’s second album, Violent by Design, sans Chief Kamachi’s verse. It also welcomed Jus Allah back into the fold.

Allah left the group after the release, and returned for their sixth studio album, A History of Violence. He left again in 2013. Stoupe also left the group in 2011, but returned in 2015. DJ Kwestion serves as the current tour DJ.

To date, Jedi Mind Tricks has released nine studio albums (all independently) and have sold over 450,000 albums. Following a 2001 deal with indie label Babygrande that ended in 2010, JMT now releases all music through their own label, Enemy Soil.

Jaylib is the collaborative project between renowned producers Madlib and the late J Dilla. While both parties cultivated their own careers as solo artists (both having released music under the Stones Throw imprint), their collaborative work was first manifested in part by DJ J Rocc of the legendary Beat Junkies. In 2000, J Rocc slipped Madlib a CD of unclaimed instrumentals produced by Dilla to use how he saw fit. With full creative freedom, Madlib became inspired to record vocals over them; something that the multi-instrumentalist himself cited as rare, as he typically preferred to rap over his own beats.

After Madlib absentmindedly labeled the disc as “Jaylib,” he inadvertently helped birth what would ultimately evolve into the duo’s cross-country collaboration. In turn, Dilla would then rap over Madlib’s production as well. While the project was never recorded with the intent of being formally released, Stones Throw placed one of the tracks as the B-side to a promotional Madlib single. The 12″ reached the ears of Dilla and the idea for a larger collaboration took flight. Champion Sound was created in both Madlib and Dilla’s studios in California and Detroit, respectively, with the tracks being volleyed back and forth over mail.

The album was released in 2003, following delays due to leaks, bootlegs and sample clearance issues. As a result, a re-issue arrived in 2007. Following the release of their 20-track collaborative album, J Dilla relocated to LA and joined Madlib for a small tour run in 2004, before his health began to deteriorate. Following J Dilla’s passing in 2006, Stones Throw released a collection of Jaylib bootlegs titled Outtakes in the late producer’s memory.

Tsidi Ibrahim, better known as Jean Grae (formerly What? What?), is a critically acclaimed rapper from New York.

Born in Cape Town, South Africa, Grae’s family moved to Brooklyn when she was young. She studied Vocal Performance at the famed arts school, LaGuardia High, and was discovered by political activist and hip-hop enthusiast George Rithm Martinez upon graduation. Martinez asked Grae (then What? What?) to join his group, Ground Zero, and the five-song demo the pair created was an underground hit, earning them a feature in The Source Magazine’s coveted “Unsigned Hype” section in 1996.

Grae joined a group named Natural Resource with rapper Ocean and DJ AGGIE later that year, and would release numerous records with them over the course of the next two years. The group gained traction on the underground hip-hop scene and upon their disbandment in 1998, Grae officially made the name change to Jean Grae, marking the beginning of her solo career.

Over the next decade, Grae released three studio albums, and a collaborative album with famed producer 9th Wonder. Though consistently praised for her lyricism and delivery and garnering a worldwide fanbase, Grae never saw much commercial success, and began speaking out against the industry on social media in 2008.

After a three-year break, Grae returned to music with a new mixtape, and followed with multiple EPs. To date, Grae has released four studio albums, one mixtape and eleven EPs.

Outside of music, Grae released the audiobook, The State of Eh, in January 2014, and wrote, directed and stared in the online sitcom, Life with Jeanie. She also had a small role on the CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls.