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"From Marcy to Madison Square"...and now into history. On Saturday, Jay-Z was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. This marks one of the few solo rappers to ever be included in the musical pantheon, alongside The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur and fellow 2021 inductee LL Cool J.
You already know that the man with hip-hop's golden brunch ticket and $500,000 lunch convos was going to do it big. Hall of Fame Hov brought out all of his bold-faced friends, including former President Barack Obama, comedian Dave Chappelle, wife Beyoncé, Rihanna, Diddy, Pharrell, Chris Rock, daughter Blue Ivy, and David Letterman to toast him.
"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, Obama said in a pre-recorded message. "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."
“That’s a lot,” Jay-Z shared in his acceptance speech. “Trying to make me cry in front of all these white people!”
“We were told that hip-hop was a fad. Much like punk rock, it gave us this anti-culture, this subgenre, and there were heroes in it," he continued. The rapper shouted out old school icons LL Cool J, Rakim, Chuck D, Big Daddy Kane and KRS-One who influenced a young Hova. “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,” he said. “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.”
Fun fact: I interviewed Big Daddy Kane for my new book. And he was delightful!
In addition to Jay-Z, the 2021 list of nominees included The Foo-Fighters, Carole King, Todd Rundgren, Tina Turner and The Go-Go's.
One of the most poignant, "be still my childhood heart" moments of the ceremony was when Jay-Z shouted out day-one business partners Dame Dash and Kareem "Biggs" Burke. Back in the '90s, the rapper couldn't get a record label deal (Don't let revisionist history fool you. A lot of execs passed on Jay-Z). The enterprising trio started Roc-A-Fella Records, which went on to become an industry juggernaut that launched not only Jay-Z's music career but the careers of Kanye West, Dipset, Beanie Sigel and more as well as a slew of culturally significant endeavors like Rocawear clothing and the classic movie Paid In Full.
If you're a '90s kid, you've probably thrown up the Roc-A-Fella diamond in the sky a few times. Hell, I still want a Roc-A-Fella chain.
After the ceremony, the rapper (who never tweets) tweeted love to Jaz-O, his early mentor and collaborator. If you haven't seen a baby-faced Jay-Z in "Hawaiian Sophie," go do that right now.
From that shirt to the White House and now the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? What a career.
"I'm definitely gonna cry in the car," Jay-Z tweeted.
I've got tissues, Hov.
*What's your favorite Jay-Z memory? Sound off in the comments.