9 Of Jay-Z's Worst Crimes, Legal Issues & Controversial Allegations

Jay-Z has some skeletons in his closet.

Jay-Z Brian Friedman / Shutterstock

Jay-Z has found a breadth of success in his many business practices, his musical career, and his marriage to the beautiful "Queen Bee", Beyoncé.

While he rests behind the shadow of his wife's newly-released single, there are still some things that Jay-Z wants many people to forget about that he did during his youth. 

Here are 9 of Jay-Z's criminal and legal issues. 

1. Jay-Z stabbed record producer Lance Rivera in 1999.

In 1999, Jay Z was arrested for stabbing young record executive Lance Rivera.


Jay Z believed Rivera distributed bootlegged copies of his then-unreleased album "Vol. 3 — The Life and Times of S. Carter," which was not supposed to hit stores until December 28, 1999.

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After committing the crime, Jay-Z turned himself into the police accompanied by his lawyer. 

A witness to the altercation said, "Jay-Z walked up to Rivera and said, 'Lance, you broke my heart.'"

Rivera responded, "What?" before Jay-Z pulled out a knife and stabbed Rivera, according to the witness.

Jay-Z pled guilty to the stabbing and faced a 3-year sentence of probation.


2. His nightclub "40/40" was reported to have bounced checks.

In 2003, reports claimed that two companies filed separate lawsuits against Jay-Z's nightclub for a total of $46,000 in unpaid bills to the two businesses that complained — claiming they received rubber checks from Twenty Ones Inc, the rapper's company.  

Ronald Mark Associates was to be paid $18,000 for manufacturing 30 custom tables but only received a $5,000 down payment. 

Ron Berkowitz, a spokesman for 40/40, downplayed the allegations claiming that the bouncing checks are a bum rap.

Berkowitz said one suit was settled for $8,114.59 on November 2, 2003.

The second lawsuit was without merit but said they were counter-suing Ronald Mark Associates after they couldn't deliver tables as promised before the opening night in June.


3. He was a former drug dealer during his teenage years.

Speaking to Vanity Fair, Jay-Z opened up about his past, admitting that he was dealing drugs to make ends meet.

"Crack was everywhere — it was inescapable. There wasn't any place you could go for isolation or a break," he said in his interview. "You go in the hallway; [there are] crackheads in the hallway. You look out in the puddles on the curbs, crack vials are littered."

Jay-Z admitted that while he made a living selling crack, he never used the drug.

Jay-Z claimed that he did learn some of the business practices he does today from the streets, saying during the interview, "I know about budgets. I was a drug dealer. To be in a drug deal you need to know what you can spend, what you need to re-up."


4. He admitted to cheating on Beyoncé.

Rumors of infidelity were spreading in 2013, claiming that Jay-Z was cheating on Beyonce, but it was not until 2017 that Jay-Z finally admitted that he cheated on his wife.

At the time, many fans suspected his album 4:44 had thinly veiled apologies to his wife.

Jay-Z's interview with New York Times executive editor Dean Banquet allowed him to open up about his infidelity, saying, "you have to survive. So you go into survival mode, and when you go into survival mode, what happens? You shut down all emotions."


5. He shot his brother at the age of 12.

When Jay-Z was 12 years old, he said, he admitted to shooting his brother, Eric, after he stole one of the rapper's rings.

"How did he get the gun? I went to someone's crib, someone's house, and got it," he said, explaining how easy it was to acquire a firearm. "Guns were everywhere. You didn't have to go far to get one. Just everywhere."

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After shooting his brother, he believed he was going to jail, but his sibling refused to press charges and ended up apologizing to his brother because he was a crack addict.


"It was terrible. I was a boy, a child. I was terrified," he said in the interview. 

6. He reportedly punched a young female fan. 

In footage from Jay-Z's concert film backstage, a scene from part of the film shows Jay-Z purportedly striking a young female fan back in 1999.

The rapper appears to slap and then push the young woman in front of him as he walks down a corridor with his entourage. 

A spokeswoman for the rapper says that the footage was being taken out of context.


Speaking to the New York Daily News, she said, "The person in that video is someone who he has worked with for years, and they are very close, and for it to be excerpted like that is an insult."

7. He sued David Ortiz for the use of his nightclub name. 

Jay-Z sued David Ortiz for naming his Santo Domingo Club Forty-Forty, perhaps hoping to cash in on the success Jay Z found with the name.

The lawsuit sought over $5 million in damages for Ortiz to forfeit the use of the 40/40 name.

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"David Ortiz is fully aware of Plaintiff's Manhattan 40/40 club, since he had been a patron there on several occasions before he opened his Infringing Forty/Forty club," the lawsuit stated. 


A year later, the case was "settled in principle," Peter Raymond, one of Jay-Z's lawyers, told the Daily News.

8. He was arrested for gun possession.

In April of 2001, Jay-Z and three other men were arrested outside a Manhattan nightclub and held on charges of illegal gun possession.

Police said that Jay-Z was detained when his bodyguard Hamzah Hewitt was allegedly found with a loaded handgun in his waistband. 

Hewitt, Jay-Z, and two other individuals were all charged with third-degree criminal possession of a weapon.


The case was delayed until October 2001, when Jay-Z entered a plea of not guilty and was found not to have been part of the possession but did face three years probation for the 1999 stabbing of Rivera. 

9. Jay-Z sued Rita Ora for alleging that she still owed four more albums.

Famous singer, Rita Ora, was sued by Jay-Z's album label Roc Nation with Ora alleging the company lost interest after they focused their attention on other ventures such as streaming service Tidal and a sports management company. 

Roc Nations claims they sunk millions into Ora's career and that she owes them four more albums. 

Ora signed with Roc nation in 2008 while she was an unknown and agreed to deliver five albums, and has only produced one. 


Ora's attorney, Howard King, said Jay Z promised Ora "total freedom" from the label.

In a statement, King believes that Sony Music made Roc Nation file the action to preserve whatever rights Sony had.

Roc Nation alleged it was a breach of contract and they demanded $2 million-plus be given back along with unspecified damages for the four undelivered albums.

The lawsuit was settled between the two parties, with Ora possibly signing with a new music label.

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Kurtis Condra is a writer for YourTango, based in San Francisco, California. His expertise includes pop-culture deep dives, human interest stories, and news. When not writing for YourTango, he focuses on his poetry. You can follow his poetic journey on​ Instagram.