*Despite the historic nature of Jay Z’s induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on Thursday – as the first rapper ever to receive the honor – the rap mogul was not in attendance, due to the advanced state of his wife Beyonce’s pregnancy.
But his mother, grandmother, sisters and many friends were there, according to Billboard.com, and Hov sent out a flurry of tweets honoring fellow rappers who have inspired him.
And then former President Barack Obama appeared on screen delivering a 2 min tribute to the artist, saying he’s been listening to Jigga since he was “a young and hungry state senator,” and comparing their backgrounds as fatherless sons who started from the bottom and soared far beyond expectations.
“Jay and I are also fools for our daughters,” Obama said. “Although he’s gonna have me beat once those two twins show up. And let’s face it, we both have wives that are significantly more popular than we are.”
Obama also noted how many time’s he’s quoted Jay Z’s lyrics in his speeches. “I had to brush some dirt off my shoulders during the campaign,” he recalled. “So I’m pretty sure I’m still the only president to listen to Jay Z’s music in the Oval Office. That may change at some point, but I’m pretty sure that’s true now.”
Watch Obama’s entire salute to Jay Z below:
— Victoria M. Walker (@vikkie) June 16, 2017
Appearing at the induction ceremony in Jay’s absence was his longtime friend and music publisher, Warner/Chappell CEO Jon Platt, who delivered a third-person interpretation of some of the things he believed Jay would want to say.
Read the speech in full below, via Billboard.com:
Platt: If this was a hip-hop room — to get that introduction and people are expecting to see Jay, and they see Jon Platt walk out here? [Laughter]
Tonight, I humbly stand before you on behalf of my friend and my brother Shawn Carter, better known to the world as Jay Z. I’ve only known one other songwriter whose songwriting has launched so many companies and created careers for so many other people — hundreds of people — and that man was also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame tonight as a songwriter: [Motown Records founder] Mr. Berry Gordy. Mr. Gordy, I wish you could have seen how Jay’s eyes lit up when I told him you were both being inducted on the same night. It was really special. And to all the inductees tonight, Jay salutes your achievements as well.
I can’t begin to tell you how much this honor means to me – I’m sorry, [laughing] it’s not my award — I can’t begin to tell you how much this award means to Jay. He’s really sorry he can’t be here with you tonight. So let me start as I think Jay would, by acknowledging some of the most important people in his life: his lovely wife and daughter, and Jay’s mother and grandmother are here tonight. And if Jay would have been here tonight, he made it known that he wanted to sit right between both of you because you are two of the most important people in his life. Jay’s sisters Annie and Michelle are here, as well as his cousin, and some of his closest friends: Ty Ty Smith, Emory Jones, and I know Jay wouldn’t leave without acknowledging [Roc Nation president] Jay Brown and the rest of his Roc Nation family.
You know, I was deeply moved when Jay reached out and asked me to step in and accept this induction on his behalf. I was so moved that I learned something about New York — because when he told me he wanted me to do this for him, I just started crying. And when y0u’ve got a six-foot-six black dude walking down the street in New York crying, people start to get out of your way really fast! [Laughter] But it touched me that deeply.
I’ve worked with Jay for over 20 years, since just after the release of his first album, “Reasonable Doubt.” And I’ll never forget the moment when I first heard that album. Yes, the songs were great, but the songwriting was next level. And at that moment I knew I was listening to a rare kind of genius and that was a person that I absolutely had to meet. That first meeting led to not just an epic business relationship but one of the greatest friendships of my life.
But what’s so incredible about Jay is that after selling after more than 100 million albums, Jay is one of the most self-aware superstars you’ll ever meet. As the great Quincy Jones put it, Jay Z knows why God gave us two ears and one mouth: because it means you’re supposed to listen twice as much as you talk.
Jay Z accepts not just the benefits of his fame, but also the responsibilities of it. He understands what his work means to his millions of fans around the world just as much as he understands how important it is that he’s becoming the first rap artist to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. And he also knows that so many came before him that didn’t get this opportunity and didn’t receive this honor.
You see, when it comes to the industry’s biggest honors, the hip-hop community has a very long history of being told “You’re not songwriters,” “You’re not quite there yet,” “It’s not your time yet.” Well, to all the songwriters and artists from our community and our generation, Jay would want you to know that this induction is a signal that your time has come and your time is now. He would tell up-and-coming hip-hop artists today that there can be no mistake or question that you are indeed songwriters, and your gift cannot ever be overlooked. And Jay would want you to know that as proud as he is to be the first, he’s even more proud that he won’t be the last.
I’ve been in this business a long time and I’ve seen a lot of things come and go. But legends? Legends are forever, and tonight Shawn Carter takes his rightful place among the legends in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and this moment will live on forever. On behalf of Jay, I thank you for this honor of a lifetime.