Dave Chappelle talks about Jay-Z in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Dave Chappelle created a lot of controversy recently with his jokes about transgender people in his new Netflix special. But on Saturday night, he took a break from being canceled to induct Jay-Z into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Chappelle has been a Jay-Z fan for decades, and the fandom is mutual. The comedian, who lives in Ohio, got a massive ovation from the crowd when he showed up, and continued to recall several anecdotes from meeting Jay over the years while reaping praise for his artistry.

Read the full text of Chappelle’s speech in the Rockhallen below.

Welcome to Ohio for all the inmates. I want to apologize … I’m just fucking with you. It’s an incredible honor to induct this next man into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But I need everyone in rock & roll to know that even though we honor him, he is ours. He’s hip hop. Forever and always and one day.

I could sit up here tonight, I could talk about his acumen as a businessman. I could talk about his achievements in music. But I think what is most important for everyone in this space to know is what it means to us, what he means to his culture.

Being black in America is not as easy as it seems. It’s always … Do not do this, or anything. Do not say this or anything. As Sean Carter said of himself, “I’m so naughty, I’m so naughty, I’m ‘Rosin in the sun,’ sir.” We do it anyway. When we’re going. We do not have a complicated emotional vocabulary. We need to make everything look easy. And this man is a diamond born of pressure. To create a sentence that another Hall of Famer made – Tupac Shakur called it a rose that rose from the concrete. That to us is what hip hop is.

You heard our stories coming back to us. Our stress and our strengths. And all the time, he said it, my God, Jay, you look so cool. You look so calm, so collected. “If I shoot you, I’ll be brainless. But if you shoot me, you famous, what a Na to do.” My God man, it’s beautiful to look at.

In the music business, they call him “One-take Hov.” He said it about himself, but you do not know why he said it. For when he trotted, for he used to sell crack. Oh, do not get it distorted. American Pie is not made from apples. It’s made of whatever you get your hands on.

He used to sell crack. He had nothing to write his rhymes on and he was sitting there and he was just writing anything. He would remember all these thoughts that came to his mind, an avalanche of ideas. And he just wanted to catch rainwater. And when he came into the study, like God, he did the verse. He would let it be. And that would be it – and the streets admired him for this. The streets loved him for this for this because he rhymed on a recipe for survival. “Like I tell you all to take drugs, no. Hov did. So hopefully you do not have to go through that.” …

Successfully follows co-option. And he never let it get to him. The way a white person can hear his music is not the same as a person from Marcy would. Well, he’s said, “This is Jay every day.” He told us he would never change. You heard this … probably the white person says, “Well, maybe this guy should focus on this development.” But what we heard is that he will never forget us.

He will always remember us. That we are his point of reference, that he will show us how far we can go if we just ] seize the opportunity. For this we will always love him, we always value him.

And however important this war may be to some, you must understand that he has the hearts of his people. And we love him more than you could ever recognize or even realize because he embodies the potential of what our lives can be and what success can be.

And he was so calm. Years ago, just before I hosted Saturday Night Live, it was the week before. I saw Jay-Z in the studio and I said to him, “Boy, I’m nervous for next week. And he looked around in Studio 8H, where we were recording the show, and he just shrugged and said, “This is easy work.” And I calmed down.

There is so much poetry if you have gotten to know him. Just the way he speaks. I remember once. The Roots had a jam session in LA. I had just resigned Chappelles Show. But I made it to the Roots Jam session. And backstage I saw Jay-Z and a photographer came over and said, “Gunner, can we have a picture?” It was him and his wife, Beyonce. Okay guys, relax. I love you too, guy.

And we all gathered for a picture, me, Jay and Beyonce, and I stood between them, and I put my arms around them, and Jay grabbed me and moved me to the side and took his wife by the hand and said: “The rose between the thorns.”

We all stood there while they all ran away. And as they take the picture, Jay says to me, “You have to put a lot of pressure on yourself to say funny shit all the time.” And I look at Jay and say to him, “You have to put a lot of pressure on yourself to say fat shit all the time.”

And Jay looked at me and said, “It’s no pressure. I’m just doing it.”

And I looked at Jay and said, “My God, man, you just did it again.”

You can not ignore the people who are with him … TyTy, his mother. These people who protected him and kept him safe and kept him sane while he reached the ascension through American life. Please give them your warmest applause.

Hova, my friend. I am a fan. I’m honored to have a chance to get to know you. You embody black expertise, where are we amazing maybe. When Barack Obama ran for president, I was sitting in an arena in Columbus watching you influence the crowd and make sure we are united and voting as one body. I understand who you are. And I understand what you are doing and I am very grateful for your contribution to this art. And I’m honored to be the Na who gets to say, “My N – a, welcome to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”

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