Jay-Z Scored a 12th-grade Reading Level When He Took a Reading Test In the 6th grade

Jay-Z has always been known to be one of the smartest people in the music business, and it must be true, seeing as how he’s become one of the most financially successful artists of all time. You don’t get to a $1 billion net worth without having a high level of intelligence, and Jay-Z surely has that.

Unsurprisingly, stories of Jay-Z’s intelligence date as far back as his youth. As a young artist, he would often have to memorize his raps when he was on the streets because he had no paper to write them on at the time. Even going as far back as his childhood, his 6th-grade teacher claims he was one of her smartest students. She once even told a story about how he scored a 12th-grade reading level on a test she administered, which was unheard of at the time.

Jay-Z grew up in the Marcy Projects, in Brooklyn’s tough Bedstuy neighborhood

Jay-Z
Jay-Z | Photo by Kevork S. Djansezian/Getty Images)

Jay-Z frequently references his place of birth, the Marcy Projects, on his records and in interviews. Growing up in Bedstuy, Brooklyn in the 80s, he was exposed to extreme poverty, drug use, and violence on a daily basis. Jay-Z never shies away from the experiences he had there as a child, and how they shaped him into the person he is today. In an interview with NPR, Jay-Z detailed some of the traumatic experiences he had there as a child.

“It was a very intense and stressful situation,” he said. “Suddenly it would turn just violent and there would be shootings at 12 in the afternoon on any given day. It was a weird mix of emotions. One day, your best friend could be killed. The day before, you could be celebrating him getting a brand-new bike.”

Jay-Z found an escape from his circumstances in the written word

Jay-Z’s love for words has long been documented. With that being considered, it makes sense that he chose to rap as a profession. As a youth, he was fascinated by another kid in the neighborhood’s ability to rhyme words, according to British GQ

“There was this guy who used to freestyle around the way. He used to rap about anything, You know, ‘My clothes is damp/And I like that lamp/And I am the champ,’ and I was like, that’s f–king cool. So I started trying it. It was a gift.”

Jay-Z also credits his 6th-grade teacher, Renee Rosenblum-Lowden, with inspiring him to escape his surroundings by diving into literature. According to a Netflix interview he did with David Letterman, her class was ground zero for his love affair with words.

“I had a sixth-grade teacher. Her name was Ms. Lowden, and I just loved the class so much. Like reading the dictionary, and my love of words—I just connected with her.”

Jay-Z scored a 12th-grade reading level after taking a reading test in the 6th grade 

Jay-Z
Michael Rubin, Shaquille O’Neal, Robert Kraft, Jay-Z and Juan Perez | Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Fanatics )

Rosenblum-Lowden, his 6th-grade teacher at Brooklyn’s I.S. 318, also has fond memories of Jay-Z, and claims he was one of her brightest students. During an interview with the Washington Post, she detailed a story of how he scored six grades above the standard reading level when she administered a test.

“The thing I remember about Shawn is he took the reading test and he scored 12th grade in the sixth grade,” she stated. “And I remember telling him — because I really feel it’s important to tell kids they’re smart — I said, ‘You’re smart, you better do well.’ And he listened.”

Clearly, Jay-Z took his former teacher’s words to heart, because he went on to become one of the biggest artists in the world and now has a net worth of over $1 billion.