Jay-Z might be the mega-super-mogul-rap star that we know and love today; but when he growing up in the Marcy Projects of Brooklyn, there was no sign that he would grow into the successful man he has become. In the November Vanity Fair, Jay-Z fans will get the up-close and personal story of the legendary rapper.

Jay-Z freely discusses the bad choices he made when he lived in the projects, sharing space with his mom and three siblings. Because the family was so poor, he had to sell drugs. He recalls how his mother would have to choose what bills to pay each month; they had the gas turned off several times.

Even though he lived in poverty, he and his family were not starving. He does talk about having limited choices in his closet and wearing old sneakers, too. His friends at school had a very different visual image of young Shawn Carter than we do today. He was a long way from the luxurious designer suits and high end sneakers that we see him in today.

He recalls his younger years with a realistic tone commenting about about the fact that crack appeared practically everywhere he went. He saw people high on crack in the halls at school. He saw empty vials all over the sidewalks and curbs. The sights and smells of the addicting drug remain strong images in his memory. Even though he never did crack, he did end up selling it because his family needed the money.

Sadly, Jay-Z was not the only young man selling drugs in his community. His mom was aware of what he was doing, but she never said anything. He reported that most moms knew if their sons were dealers, but the fact that they brought money into the home was enough for them to look the other way. Selling drugs was a form of survival, because it helped young men like him fit in by having nicer clothes and a tough reputation. Like most young men from his neighborhood, he did not think twice about what he was doing to the people he sold crack to, because he was only thinking about himself and his family. He does have some regrets about what he did by selling, but his entrepreneurial spirit was built on his years in high school.

As a young drug dealer, he had to manage a budget to be sure that he did not want to lose money on any deals. Jay-Z believes that his early years as a drug dealer helped him understand the businesses he is involved in now, especially Roc Nation Sports, the sports agency he owns. When he was selling drugs, he always had to have a way out of dealing; back then, drug dealers needed to be able to get out because if they did not, they would end up in jail or they would be killed in a deal gone bad.