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Barack Obama honors Jay-Z at his Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction

Inductee Jay-Z speaks onstage during the 36th Annual Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony
Michael Loccisano
Getty Images for The Rock and Ro
Inductee Jay-Z speaks onstage during the 36th Annual Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony

Rapper Jay-Z was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on Saturday, in a star-studded ceremony that featured tributes by former President Barack Obama and comedian Dave Chappelle.

The induction makes Jay-Z one of the few solo rappers to ever be included in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, alongside artists like the Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur and fellow 2021 inductee LL Cool J.

The legacy of the 23-time Grammy winner was celebrated in an introduction video that included remarks from Rihanna, DJ Khaled and Samuel L. Jackson, among others.

Obama's remarks came in a separate recording, in which he spoke about what Jay-Z's music has meant to him at pivotal points in his life and presidency.

"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, according to footage of the speech posted to social media. "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."

"So let me be one of the first to welcome Hov, the kid from Marcy Houses ... as an official Rock and Roll Hall of Famer," he continued.

It was not the first time Obama has paid tribute to the rapper. The former president previously honored Jay-Z in 2017, when he became the first ever rapper to enter the Songwriters Hall of Fame. "I'm pretty sure I'm still the only President to listen to Jay Z's music in the Oval Office," he said at the time.

Jay-Z was also inducted in person by Chappelle, who in recent weeks has been mired in controversy after performing transphobic material in a new Netflix special.

"I'm honored that I got a chance to know you," Chappelle said, according to a transcript of the remarks posted by Rolling Stone. "You embody Black excellence, how great we can be."

"[We] were told hip-hop was a fad," Jay-Z said in his acceptance speech. "Much like punk rock, it gave us this anti-culture, this subgenre. And there were heroes in it." After the ceremony the rapper tweeted, "Thank you to everyone in that video package, I'm definitely gonna cry in the car."

In addition to Jay-Z, the 2021 list of nominees celebrated at the ceremony included The Foo-Fighters, Carole King, Todd Rundgren, Tina Turner and The Go-Go's.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony airs in full on November 20th on HBO.

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Corrected: December 5, 2021 at 8:00 PM AKST
A previous version of this story misquoted Barack Obama's speech about Jay-Z. The quote has been updated.
Hazel Cills
Hazel Cills is an editor at NPR Music, where she edits breaking music news, reviews, essays and interviews. Before coming to NPR in 2021, Hazel was a culture reporter at Jezebel, where she wrote about music and popular culture. She was also a writer for MTV News and a founding staff writer for the teen publication Rookie magazine.