Jay Z, aka Shawn Carter, became the first rap artist inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in a star-studded ceremony Thursday night at New York City’s Marriott Marquis Hotel
Though Jay Z was a last-minute no show due to wife Beyonce’s impending delivery of twins in Los Angeles, his mother and grandmother were there to watch a video from former President Barack Obama congratulating Jay Z on the honor. Obama suggested that he was sure that “no one who met us as young men expected us to be where we are today,” adding “I’m pretty sure I’m still the only president to listen to Jay Z in the Oval Office.”
The absent rapper sent remarks delivered by Jon Platt, CEO of Warner/Chappell Music Publishing, in which he acknowledged the historic achievement. “The hip-hop community has a very long history of being told you’re not songwriters,” Jay Z said through Platt. “This induction is a signal that your time has come and your time is now.”
Earlier this year, SHOF president Linda Moran explained to Forbes how Jay Z’s inclusion came to be: “There are hundreds of writers to be considered, so the [nominating] committee goes thru several rounds of cutting names until they get to the final 12 [in the performing songwriter category]. Jay Z is the first rapper to make the final cut.”
For the Hall, which has long favored traditional writers with an emphasis on classic melody and songcraft, this was a big step in finally recognizing one of the most popular forms of music.
Joining Jay Z in the class of 2017 were Max Martin, James Pankow and Robert Lamm from Chicago, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Babyface and Berry Gordy. Songwriters are eligible 20 years after they were first published.
Receiving special awards were composer Alan Menken, Pitbull, Ed Sheeran and publisher Caroline Bienstock.
Jon Bon Jovi opened the show by singing a slowed-down, dramatic version of “It’s My Life,” Bon Jovi’s 2000 hit co-written by Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and Martin. While Martin, who has landed 22 No. 1 pop hits —second only to Paul McCartney and John Lennon— is, perhaps, better known for his work with acts such as Katy Perry and the Backstreet Boys, being serenaded by Bon Jovi was a sweet, nostalgic turn.
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