“I would like to apologize,” Dave Chapelle teased as he took the stage in Cleveland on Saturday night (Oct. 30). Speaking in jest, the comedian did not make the appearance about himself, as he had a job to do: help induct rapper-turned-mogul Jay-Z into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “I need everybody in rock and roll to know, that even though you are honoring him, he is ours,” Chappelle continued. “You embody Black excellence, ” Chappelle said to Jay.
Chappelle’s appearance came after a video tribute to Jay-Z that featured a who’s who of the biggest names in entertainment, including Barack Obama, Beyonce, DJ Khaled, Sean Combs, Usher, Rihanna, Pharrell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jamie Foxx, Regina King, Ed Sheeran, Chris Rock, Trevor Noah, Lin-Manuel Miranda, H.E.R., LeBron James, Common and John Legend, among others.
Taking the stage to accept the honor, Jay-Z held back tears, cracking to the crowd of 12,000: “Y’all trying to make me cry in front of all these white people!”
Jay named-checked hip-hop pioneers and personal heroes Rakim, Big Daddy Kane and fellow inductee LL Cool J, recalling how artists “were told that hip-hop was a fad” when he was starting out. Jay went to great lengths to mention the people who helped on his journey, including family members (his mother, Gloria Carter, and sister) and even foes, like Roc-A-Fella Records’ Damon Dash. “I know we don’t always see eye-to-eye but I can never erase your accomplishments and I appreciate you,” said Jay.
In reference to former president Obama, Jay recalled how he answered the call to help with the campaign for the White House. “We won, and we got it done here in Ohio,” said Jay. “That showed me the power of hop-hop the power of these heroes who let me know that these things are possible. … Hopefully I’m informing the next generation that anything is possible.”
Jay cracked that he had a court date coming up this week, but noted calmly, “Life is about balance.” He concluded with an apology of his own: “Sorry for this long-ass speech, but I had to get it off.”
Other hip-hop highlights from the night included the induction of LL Cool J into the Rock Hall. In tribute to the Queens rapper, Eminem took the stage for “Rock the Bells” and Jennifer Lopez joined in for “All I Have,” after which LL, flanked by a dance troupe, launched into a medley of his own, including snippets from Go Cut Creator Go” and “Mama Said Knock You Out.” Dr. Dre was also on hand for the induction ceremony, regaling the audience with tales of his early days as a DJ, when he began “practicing mixing and scratching ‘Rock the Bells’ in my garage,” Dre recounted. “LL’s body of work contains some of the most diverse hip-hop has ever seen,” Dre continued. “He became rap’s first pop superstar.”
An edited version of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony will air on HBO on Nov. 20.