The elite club also welcomed Motown records ’ pathbreaking founder Berry Gordy and Swedish hitmaker Max Martin at its annual induction — an evening of performances by top stars that, like songwriters , stayed decidedly lower – key than televised award galas .
Obama made a surprise appearance by video to present the honor to Jay Z, who grew up as Sean Carter in a troubled housing project in Brooklyn and has gone on to become one of music’ s wealthiest entrepreneurs.
“ I like to think Mr Carter and I understand each other. Nobody who met us as younger men would have expected us to be where we are today, ” Obama said of the rapper, who with his wife Beyonce actively campaigned for the first African- American president.
Obama said he related to Jay Z in that neither grew up with a father , both understood deprivation “ and, let ’ s face it , we both have wives who are significantly more popular than we are. ”
Obama described himself as a longtime fan of Jay Z and, in a veiled reference to his successor Donald Trump, said : “ I ’ m pretty sure I ’ m still the only president to listen to Jay Z’ s music in the Oval Office . ”
“ That may change at some point, but I ’ m pretty sure that’ s true now , ” Obama said .
Jay Z did not appear at the ceremony . Beyonce is pregnant with twins , and his absence is sure to fuel speculation that her delivery date is approaching.
The rapper took to Twitter to thank artists who influenced him . In a speech in his name , his music publisher Jon Platt said the award came after years of rappers being told “ you ’ re not songwriters . ”
“ Jay would want you to know that this induction is a signal that your time has come and your time is now , ” Platt said to applause.