History has been made.
Two of hip-hop’s living legends, JAY-Z and LL Cool J, were officially inducted into the 2021 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame at Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on Saturday (Oct. 30).
JAY-Z, who earned his spot in his first year of eligibility, received recorded tributes from President Obama, Diddy, LeBron James, Chris Martin, Ed Sheeran, Jamie Foxx, Usher, and Pharrell, plus Beyoncé and Blue Ivy.
Dave Chappelle then emerged to honor Hov. After briefly addressing the ongoing controversy surrounding his Netflix special (“I would like to apologize…I’m just fu**ing with you”), the comedian got serious for a moment.
“You embody Black excellence, how great we can be,” he told JAY-Z, according to Rolling Stone. “When Barack Obama was running for president, I sat in an arena in Columbus, and watched you influence the crowd and make sure we’re unified and vote as a body. I understand who you are. And I understand what you do and I am very grateful for your contribution to this art. And I am honored to be the ni**a that gets to say, ‘My ni**a, welcome to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.’”
With his mother Gloria Carter looking on, JAY-Z paid respect to his inspirations including LL Cool J, KRS-One, and Chuck D, and thanked his Roc-A-Fella Records business partners including Damon Dash (“Shout out to Dame, I know we don’t see eye to eye, but I can never erase your accomplishments”).
During his induction speech, he reflected on his 25-year career and shared a story about getting a call from President Obama prior to the 2012 election.
“He called me and he said, ‘You know, it’s the fourth quarter. We’re down two. I need you to assist me, give me the ball, I’m Michael Jordan and I’ll get this done. I need you to go to Miami, Philly, Atlanta, and Ohio.’ And I thought like, ‘Man, hip-hop was really an agent for change and how amazing is its reach that this man is calling me to help out when he campaigned…I thought, ‘Ni**a, I’m Michael Jordan.’ That’s what I really thought.”
He continued, “That just shows me the power of hip-hop, the power of these heroes who let me know that these things are possible. Shout out to Kendrick [Lamar], who is a beautiful person. Hopefully [I’m showing the] next generation that anything is possible.”
Thank you to everyone in that video package , I’m definitely gonna cry in the car .
— Mr. Carter (@sc) October 31, 2021
In my excitement , I failed to prize, and acknowledge JAZ-O, he was the hometown hero that made the dream tangible . Thank you good man… ok let me lose this password for another year or so . Thank you all again , incredibly humbled by your love .
— Mr. Carter (@sc) October 31, 2021
LL Cool J, who was rejected by Hall of Fame voters six times, received his own star-studded salute from Dr. Dre. “He’s hit that unique space that crosses and bridges generations; the rare artist beloved by you, your mama and all of your kids all at once,” said Dre. “How ’bout that? How many artists in the rap game are relevant after 30 years?”
LL took the stage for what Rolling Stone called “one of the best Hall of Fame moments in history.” The performance began with 1987’s “Go Cut Creator Go” and “Going Back to Cali” before Eminem surprised the crowd and traded bars with his idol on “Rock the Bells.” Jennifer Lopez also showed up for their 2003 hit “All I Have” before LL capped things off with “Mama Said Knock You Out.”
Other Rock Hall inductees included Tina Turner, who received a musical tribute from H.E.R. and Christina Aguilera, and Carole King, who was honored by Jennifer Hudson. The three-hour ceremony will air Nov. 20 on HBO and HBO Max.