At a ceremony on Thursday in Manhattan that featured the likes of Jon Bon Jovi, Berry Gordy, Ed Sheeran and Pitbull, this Brooklyn rapper, born Shawn Carter, was a presence even in absentia, noting the occasion with a microphone-drop of a video message from former President Barack Obama.
Obama said in the clip, calling Jay Z “a true American original” and thanking him for “making me want to be active in my retirement, as you have been in yours.” Jay Z, whose wife, Beyoncé, is pregnant with twins, was a last-minute cancellation for the event, which he had described as “a win for US” upon the announcement of his inclusion in February.
Gordy, the Motown founder, was honored as well, after deferring his induction last year.
Over the course of more than an hour, he blasted out a stream-of-consciousness (and erratically punctuated) list of rappers who have inspired him, including pillars of the genre, longtime peers, oft-overlooked fan favorites, former rivals and up-and-comers.
So he’s freestyling.” While the songwriting award rarely resonates much beyond industry circles, Jay Z and his team had made plain in advance of the event how much the award meant to him, repeatedly highlighting the rapper’s induction as a significant occasion.