Cleveland – Jay-Z has added another title to a bio that includes rapper, songwriter, Grammy winner, billionaire business mogul and global icon – Hall of Famer.
“Greatest Rapper Alive” was presented Saturday night as part of the 2021 Rock & Roll Celebrity category that included the Foo Fighters, Carole King, Tina Turner, The Go-Gos and Todd Rundgren.
Once a tough street drug dealer in Brooklyn, New York, Jay-Z rose to prominence in the rap world with harsh and straightforward songs depicting the struggles of black people in America.
His catalog includes songs such as “Hard Knock Life”, “99 Problems” and “Empire State of Mind” as well as #1 albums.
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After a video introduction that featured President Barack Obama, LeBron James and David Letterman, Jay-Z was introduced by comedian Dave Chappelle, who praised him for being an inspiration.
“He stood a recipe for survival,” Chappelle said. “It embodies what our life potential could be and what success could be.”
Paul McCartney welcomed the Foo Fighters, who took the mantle as one of rock’s best shows. Initially, the band was little more than a side project for first man Dave Grohl, who had previously been recruited as a drummer for Nirvana.
Foo Fighters and McCartney concluded the show with The Beatles’ “Return”.
Rapper LL Cool J was honored for musical excellence along with keyboardist Billy Preston and guitarist Randy Rhodes.
Electronic entrepreneurs Kraftwerk, singer-songwriter Jill Scott Heron and Delta blues legend Charlie Patton were recruited as early influencers and Sussex Records founder Clarence Avant was awarded the Ahmet Ertugun Award.
Cool J enlisted some of his heavyweight musician friends to lead him to rock time immortality. Eminem and Jennifer Lopez joined one of the early hip-hop stars on stage for a powerful performance that spanned his career.
Superstar Taylor Swift opened the show with one of King’s most famous songs, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” which was featured on “Tapestry” her 1971 debut album — a soundtrack for a generation.
Swift gave a poignant and heartfelt speech to one of her musical idols.
“I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know Carol King’s music,” Swift said, noting that her parents taught her several important lessons when she was a child, one of the most important being “that Carol King is the greatest songwriter of all time.”
King thanked Swift for “carrying the torch forward”. She noted that other singers and songwriters said they stood on her shoulders.
“Don’t forget that,” King said. “They also stand on the shoulders of the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. May you rest in power, Miss Aretha Franklin.”
The 81-year-old Turner, who had her biggest success when she left her abusive husband Ike Turner, lives in Switzerland and did not attend the ceremony.
If they would still give me an award at 81, Turner said in a video message. “I must have done something right.”
Regarded as the greatest female group in rock history, The Go-Go’s emerged from the Los Angeles punk scene in the 1980s. The quintet broke the rules and shattered the gender extremes in a male-dominated industry with hits like “We Got The Beat”, “My Lips Are Sealed” and “Head Over Heels”.
Known for her kind songs like “Hello It’s Me” and “Love Is The Answer”, Rundgren has also had a long way toward induction. He was outspoken about the hall selection process and skipped the ceremony in protest.
“Ever defiant,” Patti Smith said in a video featuring Rundgren.
This year’s gala was held for the first time at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, the home of the 20,000-seat Cleveland Cavaliers NBA club and a familiar venue for the Jay-Z and Foo Fighters, who have performed in the arena before.
It was a return to normalcy for the event, which was forced to move to default in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Artists are not eligible for extrapolation until 25 years after the release of their first recording. There are lively discussions every year about omissions, and as Chuck D of Public Enemy pointed out during a Friday induction party in the auditorium, sometimes patience is another requirement for entry.
“It’s not an overnight thing,” he said. “You can’t get stuck in this place.”
This was certainly the case for King, who has been eligible for honors as a solo artist since 1986. She previously went on as a songwriter with her late husband Jerry Goffin in 1990.
The concert will premiere on HBO on November 20.