Skill Recognizes Skill: Artists on JAY Z’s Songwriting

‘‘It’s not about standing still and becoming safe.”


“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. We know what it’s like not to have a father around. We know what it’s like not to come from much and to know people who didn’t get the same breaks that we did. So we tried to prop open those doors of opportunity so it’s a little easier for those who come up behind us to succeed as well.

Jay and I are also fools for our daughters, although he’s going to have me beat once those two twins show up. And let’s face it: we both have wives who are significantly more popular than we are.

Like all of you, I am a fan. I’ve been listening to Jay since I was a young and hungry State Senator. I sampled his lyrics to close my speech at Selma; I tweeted a reference to “My First Song” as I was putting the finishing touches on my final State of the Union address; I had to brush some dirt off my shoulders during a campaign.

So I’m pretty sure I’m still the only president to listen to JAY Z’s music in the only office. That may change at some point, but I’m pretty sure that’s true now. In fact, JAY, you have been inspiring in making me want to be active in my retirement just like you have been in yours, so I’m going to close by saying something JAY once said that struck me. He said, ‘I’ve never looked at myself and said that I need to be a certain way to be around a certain sort of people. I’ve always wanted to stay true to myself, and I’ve managed to do that. People have to accept that.’

So with that, I’m proud to help present this award to a true American original, the first hip-hop artist to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Mr. Shawn Carter.”

—President Barack H. Obama


—Quincy Jones


“For the last 20 years, JAY Z has personified not only our Hip-Hop Culture, but the Definition of True Lyricism. He remains a prolific MC getting my respect both in the booth and the boardroom. When he receives these accolades, know they’re just the firsts of many he’s due.”



“Archangel of hip. JAY Z’s lyrics and music touch every emotion: rage, love, sadness, joy and tragedy. JAY Z started taking notes on his life early on, he reported what he saw and what he felt and he took us with him. Most of us first heard him when we heard “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” perfectly juxtaposing the beauty of childhood and the reality he lived in. He got us listening, and we’ve been listening ever since. A true artist that follows Miles Davis’ definition of a true artist, ‘‘It’s not about standing still and becoming safe. If anybody wants to keep creating they have to be about change.’”



“JAY is a top-tier emcee, rapper, lyricist, songwriter and artist. It’s only right he be in the Hall of Fame. In this game there will never be too many.”



“Congratulations, JAY!!!!! Thank you for giving us the blueprint. You’ve shown us all how to go from rappers, to business men & women. You deserve nothing but the best. Style on ‘em.”

—Nicki Minaj


“Hov changed many people’s lives with his music, and I’m certainly one of them. When it comes to lyrics and flows, he’s always been ahead of the times. Here’s an inside scoop: not too long ago I told him one of my favorite lines of his is, ‘I was born a God, I made myself a king/Which means I downgraded to a human being/ You was born a Goddess, I made you my queen/Which means we upgraded to Louis the Thirteen.’ The man has spit so many dope verses that, in my opinion, he’s not impressed with his own material no matter how amazing it is. For me and millions around the world, that verse was genius. He’s crazy for saying, ‘It’s a’ight.’ I can’t think of anyone more worthy and deserving on this recognition than JAY Z. Respect and admiration, Playboy.”

—Romeo Santos


—Chance the Rapper


“I remember walking down dark NY streets in my Timbs and leather jacket with headphones BLASTING Reasonable Doubt. That was MY record!! MINE. I lived it, I breathed it, I knew every word.

The stories that he spit described this underworld of NY that I dodged daily. The way he put together lyrics was a poetry that challenged the songwriter in me to dig deeper, to try harder to find more inspiration in the everyday stories that surrounded me.

I was and continue to be greatly inspired by JAY Z. He is relentless. He has an intelligence that is subtle and deeper than most can comprehend.

It baffles me that only now an MC is being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, yet at the same time it makes perfect sense that He is the first.

So congratulations to the Boss for being the epitome of the American Dream and for writing the soundtrack to inspire generations forever!!

Love and blessings!!”

—Alicia Keys


—Swizz Beats


“JAY Z’s contribution to music as a writer is pivotal. You can hear his wit and hustle stylings in the backbones of some of the biggest and respected artists of today. But even more importantly, he has verbally taught new generations how to understand their personal worth and create opportunities for others around them.”

—Andre 3000


“JAY Z has not only had a profound personal effect on the lives of millions from all walks of life for decades now with his songwriting, he has also set trends and influenced pop culture the world over from the onset of his career until present.

I am one of those whose lives have been touched by the magic of his poetry, which is uniquely his and pregnant with insight for the keen listener.

It’s a beautiful thing for him to be recognized in this manner and inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame as the first ‘rapper’ to do so. It’s fitting, since he’s been a ceiling crasher from the beginning.

I’m pleased to see that the Songwriters Hall of Fame is finally catching up to this aspect of our culture and placing my Brother where he rightfully belongs; alongside the Stevie Wonders and the Billy Joels of the world, who without, this sponge called life would be a tad bit drier.”

—J A Y E L E C T R O N I C A


“To write a song that sticks in the mind and souls of human beings is a miracle itself. The fact that JAY Z does it with such organic spontaneous creativity is a testament to his intense watching AND listening of his surrounding WORLD. His execution is bionic but his fuel is his word design, wit, and humor. That’s a popular songwriting quality that easily legitimizes him as the 1st RAP Hip-Hop songwriter in that Hall Of Fame.”

—Chuck D


“In our view, JAY Z is one of the most prolific and hip-hop genre-transcending songwriters of all time. Similar to our free style flow of writing 50 years ago in the genre of Soul and R&B, his writing is very well thought out, speaks to the community, and matches the power of his great music production. We were honored to have him sample one of our MFSB-produced recordings ‘Something For Nothing.’ As the Songwriters Hall of Fame Co-Chairmen, we are thrilled that he is being honored this week as the first hip-hop songwriter for the organization.”

—Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff


“Put me anywhere on God’s green Earth I triple my worth.”

“In the process of writing a song it has to be something that you feel and then the people will feel it. Writing songs takes creativity, inspiration, imagination, and the ability channel your experience and the experience of others.

JAY Z has been a leader of the culture expressing many people’s experiences but also takes us to where our dreams and imaginations can go. His lyrics are clever, charismatic and intelligent. He also brought wit and personality to his songwriting style. His music always provides a perspective of what one can accomplish coming from Marcy to influencing the World. When I think about his body of work some of my favorites are ‘A Million and One Questions,’ ‘Public Service Announcement,’ and ‘Heart of the City.’ He exemplifies an artist that can write in any time period and his lines have created philosophies for people’s lives.”



“Shawn Carter’s pen has always been filled with the narrative of the forgotten. The hard knocked life of millions without a microphone may not always sound as pretty as the 1 percent may prefer, but the light shined and the people concurred that a man and his words can change the trajectory of a nation. Salute.”

—Kirk Franklin


“Calling him a rapper puts him in a box. In referring to the Songwriters Hall of Fame and in reference to the Songwriters Hall of Fame would imply that there were others before him that were like him. Shawn Carter’s a mystic, and he’s a one of one…none before him and none to come.”

—Pharrell Williams


“Unadulterated Genius. A “blue chip,” he truly transcends the genre with his contributions. He made it a thinking man’s game. The Frank Sinatra of his time, JAY Z gave us the soundtrack of our lives.”

—Rick Ross


“When I first arrived to Los Angeles from Colombia, I remember my friends listening to JAY Z was my first real introduction to hip-hop. Then I discovered his albums like The Blueprint and his MTV Unplugged special, and I was blown away by his writing and flow. His ability to tell a story and show me another side of hip-hop continues to inspire my music to this day.”



“First and foremost, to me he’s gotta be the best songwriter of all time. Because he writes those songs in his head. He doesn’t have a rap folder like everybody else does. His rap folder is in his head. And he remembers all that shit! Think about how many albums, guest appearances, features, freestyles JAY has in total, and he remembers those rhymes word for word. If he’s not the greatest, he’s gotta be up there with the greatest.

Another reason why JAY’s the best to me is that he took everything from the streets and put it on the beats and was extremely successful at it. The process of writing a song isn’t easy. I think my greatest attribute as a songwriter is my ability to articulate true to life street stories that are unmatched. But the fact that JAY is the first rapper to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame means that this kid has struck a nerve worldwide with his words. He’s written songs that have touched the world.”

—Brad “Scarface” Jordan



—Jon Bon Jovi 


“JAY is an icon in the culture. He has steadily pushed his career upward while being true to self and true to the nature of his business. He has assembled songs of quality that could make you think, party, and watch your step if you challenged him as an MC.

He helped hip-hop culture to move into every crack and crevice of pop culture and business without diluting who he is. The culture is allowed to walk into many boardrooms, as well as play its part in fashion and be allowed in millions of people’s homes due to what he injected into it.

This honor simply means that within the world of music a level of fairness is finally being provided through the acknowledgment: rappers are and always have been songwriters.”



“JAY Z paints in the now with words. His lyrics are urgently pristine and his innumerable flows are exquisitely tactile. Never overrated or duplicated; JAY Z is a true master of his craft.”

—Miss Jill Scott


“JAY Z not only changed music by making rap pop culture but may very well be the most influential rap artist in music due to his indelible impact on our industry by changing the model of our business.”



“JAY’s impact on urban youth culture around the world cannot be understated. Musically, my entire generation grew up on his art. And that’s the powerful thing about great music and great songs – it transcends boundaries, and cultures, and race. It just transcends. Great songs have an ability to make you connect to the spirit in them. I was never a drug dealer trying to get by in Brooklyn; never sold drugs a day in my life. BUT I connected to the spirit and mentality of what he was saying. And it inspired me to go out and conquer my life. Didn’t matter that I was a skinny kid from Africa, in college trying to get good grades. I was every bit the hustler that he vividly described in his music. I connected to it, and that’s what great music does. “

—Banky W.


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