Jay-Z & the Roc-A-Fella Family

With Memphis Bleek and Beanie Sigel. Sunday, September 16, at the Agora.

Prolific rapper Jay-Z just released his third album in two years. Even by hip-hop's relatively quick turnaround schedule, this is pretty impressive. Even more remarkable, he's managed two modern rap classics in the process: "Big Pimpin'" (from Vol. 3 . . . Life and Times of S. Carter) and "I Just Wanna Love U" (from The Dynasty Roc La Familia [2000]). Of course, he also fills his albums with oodles of cameos and stuffs them to their hip-hop-approved max. His latest endeavor, The Blueprint, is just another project in the life and times of Jay-Z. Over the past five years, he's managed to set up his own record company (Roc-A-Fella), clothing line (Roc-A-Wear), and film company (Roc-A-Fella Films). His last four albums sold more than 12 million copies, and he headlined the Hard Knock Life Tour, hip-hop's most successful road show. Needless to say, the cheddar's coming pretty easy these days for the former street hustler. But the transition from Shawn Carter to Jigga hasn't been an easy one. Most recently, Jay-Z and a few of his associates were arraigned on charges of third-degree weapons possession ("Not guilty, y'all got to feel me," he raps on his latest single, "Izzo [H.O.V.A.]"). Then there was the incident a couple of years ago, when Jay allegedly stabbed a record company executive at an N.Y.C. nightclub for supposedly pirating his album. That trial begins later this month. Currently, it's all about maintaining the biz and nurturing a growing stable of protégés (Memphis Bleek and Beanie Sigel among them). The release date of The Blueprint was pushed up two weeks, no doubt to accommodate Jigga's month-long promo tour, which kicks off this week in intimate venues. Big pimpin', indeed.

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