Jay-Z was the penultimate act honored at the 2021 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame tonight. His introduction video featured a huge roster of celebrities and significant figures, including Beyoncé, LeBron James, Chris Rock, Sean Combs, and Samuel L. Jackson. After the video, there was another pre-recorded message from former President Barack Obama, and then Dave Chappelle delivered Jay-Z’s formal induction speech.
“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,” former President Obama said. “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.”
“I would like to apologize—I’m just fuckin’ with you,” Chappelle opened his speech, possibly alluding to the backlash to his recent Netflix special. “It is an incredible honor to induct this next man into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But I need everybody in rock’n’roll to know, that even though you are honoring him, he is ours. He is hip-hop. For ever and ever, and a day.”
“I would watch these guys, and you know they had big rope chains, and they wore leather, and sometimes even the red-black-green medallions, and whatever they wore, everybody would wear the next day,” Jay-Z said in his acceptance speech, referencing LL Cool J, too. “And 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, writing at my table—shout out to Dr. Gloria Carter in the house, she bought me the green notebook.”
“We was like we gonna create our own company, you know? That’s hip-hop. And we created this company called Roc-A-Fella Records,” Jay-Z later said. “Shout out to Dame [Dash]; I know we don’t see eye to eye, but I can never erase your accomplishments, and I appreciate you and thank you for that. And shout out to [Kareem] ‘Biggs’ [Burke]; he’s one of the most honorable people I’ve ever met. We created something that will probably never be duplicated.”
Find portions of the introduction video, Obama’s speech, Chappelle’s speech, and Jay-Z’s acceptance speech below.
In addition to Jay-Z, Carole King, Todd Rundgren, Tina Turner, the Go-Go’s, and Foo Fighters were inducted this year. Kraftwerk, Gil Scott-Heron, and Charley Patton were all honored with Early Influence awards; LL Cool J, Billy Preston, and Randy Rhoads were celebrated with the Musical Excellence Award. After last year’s remote ceremony, the celebration returned to in-person proceedings this year.