Since 1969, The Songwriter’s Hall of Fame has remained an institution that honors the most vital songwriters of each musical era. It boasts a plethora of inducted legends including Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Bill Withers and Stevie Wonder. However, in its forty-eight-year history, hip hop has been the one musical genre that has been noticeably absent from its halls.
Well, until now that is. Jay Z has just been inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and is the first ever hip hop artist to be awarded by the institution. Jay Z’s impact on hip hop and popular music has been felt for decades, and he is universally praised for his wit and bare bone lyricism. He has sold over 100 million records worldwide, has won 21 Grammy awards and has three of his albums on the Rolling Stones’ list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. But his impact goes beyond influencing the music styles of countless current artists, and widespread radio airplay and sales. Andre 3000 credits Jay Z for teaching the new generations how to “understand their personal worth and create opportunities for others around them.” Chance the Rapper reiterates how vocal Hov has been over the years about artists “publishing and owning [their] own masters,” and demanding that they get every penny of their worth.
In addition, Jay Z’s induction into the Hall of Fame symbolizes popular music authorities finally coming to terms with and acknowledging the pervasive impact that hip hop music has had on the popular music and culture of today. It’s a genre that has repeatedly produced some of the most critically acclaimed and evocative albums of our time, and a great part of those albums are built upon lyricism that tackles institutional racism, brutality and the black condition in America while still holding on to the universality that make great songwriters what they are. It is the only genre that is “saying things that matter”, culturally and politically, a factor that is indispensable to the minority voice in Trump’s America. It is the most popular genre on streaming services, accounting for 28% of the total songs streamed, further strengthening the evidence of hip hops popularity, especially among the youth. So it is a great step forward, as Quincy Jones asserts, that an institution as prestigious as the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame is “taking the step to understand that hip-hop is a huge part of our culture.”