Jay-Z was welcomed to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on Saturday night, and his portion of the ceremony featured touching induction speeches by Dave Chappelle and President Barack Obama, plus an introductory montage of a beyond-stacked bench of artists, actors, and highly notable fans running through his lyrics.
The roll call of people reciting classic Hov bars included Beyoncé, Blue Ivy Carter, Rihanna, LeBron James, Pharrell, Diddy, Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson, Halle Berry, David Letterman, Rick Ross, Questlove, Regina King, Lin-Manuel Miranda, John Legend, Common, H.E.R., Jamie Foxx, DJ Khaled, Lena Waithe, Aziz Ansari, Trevor Noah, Usher, Ed Sheeran, Tyler Perry, and Chris Martin. Chloe Flower also performed a piano arrangement of Jay’s “Dead Presidents.”
After opening with a joke that he needed to apologize for something first and foremost—and an “I’m just fucking with you”—Chappelle, 48, went into his fandom for Jay-Z, 51. “I could sit up here tonight, I could talk about his acumen as businessman. I could talk about his accomplishments in music. But I think what’s most important for everyone in this room to know is what it means to us, what he means to his culture,” the comedian said in an extensive speech transcribed in full at Rolling Stone.
On his way to a closer that went, “I am honored to be the n***a that gets to say, ‘My n***a, welcome to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame,” the comic who recently delivered the controversial The Closer for Netflix shared a perfect Jay anecdote:
“And as they’re taking the picture Jay says to me, ‘You must have a lot of pressure on you to say funny shit all the time.’ And I look at Jay and say to him, ‘Well you must have a lot of pressure on you to say cool shit all the time.’ And Jay looked at me and said, ‘It ain’t no pressure. I just do it.’ And I looked at Jay and said, ‘My God, man you just did it again.’”
In his acceptance speech—which Cleveland.com reported was the night’s longest—Jay-Z joked that everyone offering the effusive praise was “trying to make me cry in front of all these white people.” Jay paid specific respects to his mother Dr. Gloria Carter, KRS-One, Chuck D, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Chaka Pilgrim, fellow inductee LL Cool J, and more:
“Growing up, we ain’t think we could be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. … We were told that hip-hop was a fad. And much like punk rock, it gave us this anti-culture, this subgenre. And there were heroes in it. … And I would watch these guys and, you know, they had the big rope chains and they wore leather, and sometimes even the red, black, and green medallions. And whatever they wore, everybody would wear the next day. And I was like, ‘That’s what I wanna do. I wanna be like those guys.’ And so I set out on my journey, a lot of writing at my table, shout-out to Dr. Gloria Carter in the house.”
Addressing Damon Dash and Kareem “Biggs” Burke, per HotNewHipHop, Jay said, “Shout-out to Dame; I know we don’t see eye to eye, but I can never erase your accomplishments, and I appreciate you and thank you for that. And shout-out to Biggs; he’s one of the most honorable people I’ve ever met. We created something that will probably never be duplicated.”
Recalling President Obama, 60, asking the 23-time Grammy-winning Reasonable Doubt mastermind for help on the campaign trail, Hov hilariously said, “He called me, and he said, ‘You know, it’s the fourth quarter, we’re down two, and I need you to assist me, give me the ball, I’m Michael Jordan, and I’ll get this done.’ … And I thought like, ‘Man, hip-hop is really an agent for change and how amazing, and the reach, that this man is calling me to help out with a campaign.’ I’m lying, I ain’t think that—I thought, ‘N***a, I’m Michael Jordan. What are you talking about?’ That’s what I really thought.”
Wrapping up, Jigga said he can’t see what the future will bring. “I don’t know what’s next,” he said, correcting himself. “In fact, I do know what’s next, I gotta go to court Monday, it’s really embarrassing. … Life is about balance.”
Take a look at clips of the lyric montage, Dave Chappelle and President Obama paying homage, and Jay-Z’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction acceptance speech below.