Why does Jay-Z call himself Hova?
It’s a play on Jay-Hova, or Jehovah, one of the Old Testament names of God. Jay-Z (born Shaun Carter) got the nickname back in 1993, when he borrowed some studio time and was recording some of his first tracks. The other people in the studio marveled to discover that Jay-Z was improvising all his lyrics, and decided that his ability was nothing short of miraculous. So they dubbed him J-Hova. Like Eric Clapton decades before him, Jay-Z resisted being anointed as the Creator. “I’ve never been comfortable being called God,” Jay-Z has said. “I shorten it to Hova.” Which isn’t that modest, actually, but if anybody’s earned it, he has. As he puts it on his song “Breathe Easy (Lyrical Exercise)”: “I’m far from being God / But I work goddamn hard.”
(Excerpted from the 2006 book Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton’s Little John?: Music’s Most Enduring Mysteries, Myths, and Rumors Revealed, published by Three Rivers Press, written by Gavin Edwards.)