Jay-Z has added another title to a CV that includes rapper, songwriter, Grammy winner, billionaire business mogul and global icon — Hall of Famer.
The self-proclaimed “greatest rapper alive” was inducted on Saturday night as part of an eclectic 2021 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame class that included Foo Fighters, Carole King, Tina Turner and The Go-Gos.
Once a drug dealer on the tough streets of Brooklyn, New York, Jay-Z rose through the rap world with hard, straightforward songs that often portrayed the struggles of black people in America.
His catalogue includes songs like Hard Knock Life, 99 Problems and Empire State Of Mind as well as 14 number one albums.
Following a video introduction that included former president Barack Obama, basketball star LeBron James and chat show veteran David Letterman, Jay-Z was inducted by comedian Dave Chappelle, who praised him for being an inspiration.
“He rhymed a recipe for survival,” Chappelle said. “He embodies what the potential of our lives can be and what success can be.”
Sir Paul McCartney welcomed Foo Fighters, who have carried the mantle as one of rock’s top arena acts. Initially, the band was little more than a side project for frontman Dave Grohl, who was previously inducted as Nirvana’s drummer.
Sir Paul described the parallels between him and Grohl as both were part of massively popular bands who broke up.
Foo Fighters and Sir Paul closed the show with Beatles classic Get Back.
Rapper LL Cool J was enshrined for musical excellence along with keyboardist Billy Preston and guitarist Randy Rhoads.
Electronic pioneers Kraftwerk, singer-poet Gil Scott-Heron and Delta blues legend Charley Patton were inducted as early influencers, and Sussex Records founder Clarence Avant received the Ahmet Ertegun Award.
Cool J recruited some of his heavyweight musical friends to usher him into rock immortality. One of hip-hop’s first superstars was joined on stage by Eminem and Jennifer Lopez for a powerful career-spanning performance.
With New York street style and swagger, Cool J remains a relevant artist more than 40 years after he started.
“What does LL really stand for?” asked rapper/producer Dr Dre in his induction speech. “Ladies love? Living large? Licking lips? I’m here because I think it stands for living legend.”
Cool J then did a medley of his hits, including Rock The Bells, accompanied by a bearded Eminem, before he was joined by J-Lo for All I Have. Cool J wrapped up his set with with one of his biggest hits, Mama Said Knock You Out.
Superstar Taylor Swift opened the show with one of King’s best-known songs, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, and gave a heartfelt induction speech for one of her musical idols.
“I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know Carole King’s music,” Swift said, saying her parents taught her several important lessons as a child with one of the most important being “that Carole King is the greatest songwriter of all time”.
King thanked Swift “for carrying the torch forward”. She noted other female singers and songwriters have said they stand on her shoulders, and added: “Let it not be forgotten. They also stand on the shoulders of the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. May she rest in power, Miss Aretha Franklin.”
Turner, 81, lives in Switzerland and did not attend the ceremony, but said in a video message: “If they’re still giving me awards at 81, I must have done something right.”
Considered the greatest female group in rock history, The Go-Go’s emerged from the Los Angeles punk scene in the 1980s. The quintet broke rules and smashed gender ceilings in a male-dominated industry with hits like We Got The Beat, My Lips Are Sealed and Head Over Heels.
“They’ve been in my personal Hall of Fame since I was six years old,” said actress Drew Barrymore, who mimicked the cover of the band’s debut album, Beauty And The Beat, during her induction speech by wrapping her body and hair in bath towels and applying face cream.
“Now,” she said. “My childhood fantasy is fulfilled.”
This year’s ceremony was held at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. It will be shown on HBO on November 20.
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