JAY-Z has made history once again.
The 23-time Grammy Award winner, 51, became the first living solo rap artist inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during Saturday evening’s induction ceremony in Cleveland, Ohio.
“Thank you, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, for this incredible honor. And you know, growing up, we didn’t think we could be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. We were told that hip-hop was a fad,” the rapper began his speech. “Much like punk rock, it gave us this anti-culture, this subgenre, and there were heroes in it.”
He thanked many in his speech, including his mom Gloria Carter, sister Annie, business partners Tyran “Ty Ty” Smith and Damon Dash, as well as the late Notorious B.I.G., while he reflected on his highly influential career and legacy as a rap artist and entrepreneur.
“When thinking about what I was going to say tonight, these heroes just kept coming to my mind, Rakim and Big Daddy Kane and KRS-One and Chuck D, and, of course, a fellow inductee, LL Cool J. I watch these guys, and they have big gold chains and leather and sometimes even the red, black, green medallions and whatever they wore, everybody would wear the next day. I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do. I want to be like those guys.’ And so I set out on my journey,” JAY-Z continued.
“Hopefully, I’m informing the next generation that anything is possible. I don’t know what’s next — In fact, I do know what’s next. I have to go to court Monday. There’s good and bad, life is about balance — But you know, tonight, we’re going to enjoy tonight. I appreciate this honor. Sorry for this long-ass speech, but I had to give it up. We did it, Brooklyn!” the father of three concluded.
JAY-Z was inducted by former President Barack Obama and Dave Chappelle, who continues to face backlash over his Netflix comedy special The Closer. “I would like to apologize. I’m just f— with you,” Chappelle, 48, started in his speech.
“It is an incredible honor to induct this next man into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame,” the comedian said. “But I need everybody in rock & roll to know, that even though you are honoring him, he is ours. He is hip-hop. Forever and ever, and a day.”
Obama, 60, who also received a shout-out in JAY-Z’s acceptance speech, noted that the rapper’s music has been influential for him in some of the most pivotal moments of his political career.
“I’ve turned to JAY-Z’s words at different points in my life, whether I was brushing dirt off my shoulder on the campaign trail, or sampling his lyrics on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the 50th anniversary of the Selma march to Montgomery,” Obama said. “Today, JAY-Z is one of the most renowned artists in history and an embodiment of the American dream, a dream he has helped make real for other young people like him.”
The Roc Nation mogul’s induction was also prefaced by an A-list roster of celebrities paying tribute to the man of the hour, led by his wife Beyoncé, 40, and their 9½-year-old daughter Blue Ivy Carter, each taking turns to recite their favorite JAY-Z lyrics.
The star-studded tribute video also included DJ Khaled, Sean Combs, Regina King, Lenny Kravitz, Dr. Dre, John Legend, Rashida Jones, Lena Waithe, Kevin Hart, Halle Berry, Questlove, Naomi Campbell, Aziz Ansari, Jamie Foxx, Trevor Noah, Kerry Washington, Chris Martin, Usher, Ed Sheeran, Rick Ross, Rihanna, Pharrell Williams, Lupita Nyong’o, Samuel L. Jackson, Queen Latifah, Jurnee Smollett, Chris Rock, Lin-Manuel Miranda, LeBron James, H.E.R., Alicia Keys, SZA, David Letterman and more.
“Thank you to everyone in that video package, I’m definitely gonna cry in the car,” the honoree later tweeted.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame first announced this year’s class of inductees in May, calling the honorees “the most diverse list of Inductees in the history of the organization.” Alongside JAY-Z and LL Cool J, the class of 2021 also included Tina Turner, Carole King, Foo Fighters, The Go-Go’s and Todd Rundgren.
An induction ceremony special is set to air on Nov. 20 and will be available to watch on HBO and HBO Max.