Last night, Jay Z became the first hip-hop artist inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. As part of the ceremony, former President Barack Obama appeared in a pre-recorded video congratulating the Brooklyn rapper as well as this year’s other inductees, including Babyface, Berry Gordy, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, and Max Martin.
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“I like to think Mr. Carter and I understand each other,” Obama said. “Nobody who met us when we were younger men would have expected us to be where we are today. We know what it’s like to not have a father around. We know what it’s like to not come from much.”
“Jay and I are also fools for our daughters, although he’s going to have me beat when those twins show up,” he joked. “And let’s face it, we both have wives who are significantly more popular than we are… Like all of you, I am a fan, and I’ve been listening to Jay since I was a young and hungry state senator.””
After pointing out all the times he referenced Jay Z’s lyrics, Obama proudly stated, “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. In fact, Jay, you have been inspiring in making me want to be active in my retirement just like you have been in yours.”
To close the speech out, Obama recited his favorite Jay Z quote: “I never looked at myself and said ‘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 managed to do that. People have to accept that.” Watch the full speech below.
Several of Jay Z’s musical contemporaries — including André 3000, Chance the Rapper, Nicki Minaj, Bono, and Rakim — also offered words of tribute in a video commissioned by TIDAL. Watch it here.
Jay Z himself surfaced on Twitter last night in drunk uncle mode to thank a litany of rappers who’ve inspired him throughout the years. In addition to legends like Rakim, Kane, KRS-One, and Chuck D, he also took the time to shout out the new generation. Unsurprisingly, fellow Chicagoan Chance the Rapper was mentioned, but he also recognized the relatively unknown Tee Grizzley (“First Day Out”) and Playboi Carti (“Magnolia”). He also thanked Obama, calling him “the greatest rapper of all time.”