Jay Z was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on Thursday night, making history as the first rapper to do so. A historic moment deserved an epic introduction, and in this case, it was none other than Barack Obama who did the honors.
In an emotional video that brought back painful memories of the recent past, Obama ran through the ways Jay influenced his own life and career.
“Hello everyone,” the former president began. “I wish I could be with all of you tonight to celebrate this year’s inductees into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.”
He then named the other inductees before saying, “And a friend of mine, and first-ballot Hall of Famer, Jay Z. I like to think Mr. Carter and I understand each other, nobody who met us as younger men would have expected us to be where we are today, we know what it’s like not to have a father around, we know what it’s like not to come from much and to know people who didn’t get the same breaks that we did, and so we try to prop open those doors of opportunity so that it’s a little easier for those who come up behind us to succeed as well.”
Obama added, “Jay and I are also fools for our daughters, although he’s gonna have me beat once those twins show up. And let’s face it, we both have wives that are significantly more popular than we are.”
The former president then went on to say how Jay had inspired him. “Like all of you I am a fan, and I have been listening to Jay since I was a young and hungry state senator. I sampled his lyrics to close my speech at Selma, I tweet a reference to ‘My First Song,’ as I was putting the final touches on my final State of the Union Address, I had to brush some dirt off my shoulders during a campaign,” he said, “So I am pretty sure I am 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.”
He concluded, “I am going to close by sharing something that Jay once said that struck me. He said, ‘I’ve never looked at myself and said that I need to be a certain way to be around a certain sort of people. I’ve always wanted to stay true to myself and I’ve managed to do that. People have to accept that.’ And so with that I’m proud to help present this award to a true American original. The first hip hop artist to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.”
Jay was not on hand for the ceremony, adding to the speculation that he is in the hospital with his wife Beyoncé as they welcome their twins. He did, however, fire off a rare string of tweets to show his gratitude and name-check many of those who inspired him:
Congrats, Jay. It’s shaping up to be an epic year.