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The comedian, who resides in rural Yellow Springs, Ohio, began his speech by saying, “I would like to apologize to — nah, I’m just fuckin’ with ya,” — referencing the criticism he’s gotten for jokes he made in his The Closer special, released earlier this month, about the transgender community. The controversy has led to a backlash against Netflix by its employees for supporting the comedian’s viewpoint. Chappelle was equally unapologetic in his praise for Jay-Z, saying, “I need everybody around the world to know: Even though you are honoring him, he is ours. He is hip-hop, forever and ever and a day.”
Chappelle praised his friend for being a leader and positive influence for Black America, noting that, “We are his point of reference, and he is going to show us how far we can go if we just get ahold of the opportunity, and for this we will always love him. We will always treasure him.”
The comedian also told a story about posing for a photo with Jay-Z and his wife, Beyoncé, during a Roots Jam Session. “Jay says to me, ‘You must have a lot of pressure on you to say funny shit all the time,’” Chappelle recalled. “And I looked at Jay and said, ‘Well, you must have a lot of pressure on you to say cool shit all the time.’ And Jay looked at me and said, ‘It ain’t no pressure. I just do it.’ I looked at Jay and said, ‘My God, man — you just did it again!’”
Chappelle’s remarks were preceded by a taped tribute from former President Barack Obama and by a montage of all-stars — including Beyoncé and their daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Diddy, Common, Queen Latifah and others — quoting lyrics from Jay-Z songs.
In a lengthy acceptance speech, Jay-Z cracked that the adoring crowd response was “trying to make me cry in front of all these white people.” He shouted out influences such as KRS-One, Chuck D of Public Enemy, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, fellow inductee LL Cool J and others. “Growing up, we didn’t think we could be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” Jay-Z noted. “We were told hip-hop was a fad, and much like punk rock, it gave us this anti-culture, this sub-genre, and there were heroes in it.”
He also singled out Damon Dash, his former manager and Roc-A-Fella Records partner, noting that, “I know we don’t see eye to eye, but I can never erase your contributions. … We created something that’ll probably never be duplicated.”
The Rock Hall inductions were filmed by HBO and will be aired starting Nov. 20.
This story first appeared on Billboard.com.
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