Barack Obama Praises Jay Z in Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction Speech

Jay Z, Barack Obama, and Bruce Springsteen © Carolyn Kaster/AP/REX/Shutterstock
Jay Z, Barack Obama, and Bruce Springsteen © Carolyn Kaster/AP/REX/Shutterstock
Photo of Ryan Kristobak
Music Editor16 June 2017

The Songwriters Hall of Fame might have 99 problems, but a rapper is no longer one.

On Thursday, June 15, Jay Z became the first hip-hop artist inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and who better to deliver a speech congratulating him than Barack Obama. In a pre-recorded message, the 44th President of the United States laid out his relationship with the Brooklyn emcee alongside a laundry list of praises.

Barack Obama and Jay Z embrace | © Carolyn Kaster/AP/REX/Shutterstock

“I like to think Mr. Carter and I understand each other,” Obama began. “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, possibly hinting at the gender of Jay Z and wife Beyoncé’s twins. “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.”

Obama then went on to list off the times in which Jay Z’s music have played a role in his political career. “I sampled his lyrics to close my speech at Selma. I tweeted a reference to ‘My First Song’ as I was putting my finishing touches on my final State of the Union address. I had to brush some dirt off my shoulders during a campaign. So 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.”

He concluded: “In fact, Jay you have been inspiring and making me want to be active in my retirement just like you have been in yours,” he said. “So, I’m gonna close by sharing something 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.’”

For his part, Jay Z took to social media in true dad-who-doesn’t-really-get-this-whole-Twitter-thing-but-hitting-that-D’USSÉ-hard form to thank those who have inspired him throughout his career, and declaring Obama “the greatest rapper of all time.”

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