Jay-Z Made History With His Induction Into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Jay-Z has been regarded by many as one of the greatest rappers to ever live. The Brooklyn-bred MC has been in the business for 25 years, and throughout that time, he’s left an indelible mark on hip-hop. His latest accomplishment is one that countless musicians only dream of: being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Jay-Z walking in NYC
Jay-Z | Robert Kamau/GC Images

Jay-Z’s career

Jay-Z released his debut solo album Reasonable Doubt in 1996, which contained hit tracks such as “Dead Presidents II” and his collaboration with his fellow Bed-Stuy rapper The Notorious B.I.G., “Brooklyn’s Finest.”

Jay-Z hit the ground running, releasing an album every year for the next six years. In 2001, he released his sixth album The Blueprint, regarded by many to be one of the best hip-hop records in history.

He continued to release music throughout the 2000s and 2010s. But eventually, Jay-Z took his talents beyond the music industry. He dedicated himself to business ventures including his Armand de Brignac champagne brand, his stake in the streaming service TIDAL, and helped create Brooklyn’s Barclays Center sports and performance venue.

Jay-Z in front of a white backdrop with logos
Jay-Z | David M. Benett/Getty Images

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Jay-Z is the first living solo rapper to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

In October 2021, Jay-Z broke new ground once again. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alongside iconic artists such as Tina Turner and Carole King (new inductees this year themselves). By doing so, Jay-Z became the first living solo rapper to receive the prestigious honor.

Jay-Z was introduced by former President Barack Obama. In his acceptance speech, he admitted that he never thought he would see the day when any rapper — let alone himself — would stand on that stage.

“Thank you, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, for this incredible honor. You know, growing up, we didn’t think we could be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We were told that hip-hop was a fad,” he said. “Much like punk rock, it gave us this anti-culture, this subgenre, and there were heroes in it.”

He shouted out his own personal heroes, including The Notorious B.I.G., Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, KRS-One, Chuck D, and LL Cool J. “[They wore] big gold chains and leather and sometimes even the red, black, green medallions and whatever they wore, everybody would wear the next day,” he recalled of his early days. “I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do. I want to be like those guys.’ And so I set out on my journey.”

“Hopefully, I’m informing the next generation that anything is possible.”

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Other rappers in Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Jay-Z is the first living solo rapper to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but he’s far from the first emcee to receive the honor.

In 2007, hip-hop pioneers Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were inducted into the Hall of Fame — and were introduced by none other than Jay-Z. In 2013, Public Enemy (including Flavor Flav and Chuck D) were inducted. And in 2016, the members of N.W.A. were given the prestigious honor.

In 2020, The Notorious B.I.G. became the first solo rapper to join the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.