That’s how Kendrick Lamar ended his acceptance speech for Best Rap Album and now, every outlet is seriously running headlines that say “Kendrick Lamar Endorses Jay-Z for President.”
“___ for president!” is a slang term of endearment people have been saying for years. It’s only now that an unqualified sack of potatoes who happens to be a celebrity is in the Oval that everyone is taking this seriously. I don’t think Kendrick actually meant his shout-out as an endorsement of Jay-Z for the president of the United States of America. I think Kendrick meant it a) in a tongue and cheek way because Klan President has had Jay’s name all in his mouth this weekend and b) symbolically because Jay-Z and Beyoncé are the first family of music. Jay is basically the president of hip-hop and in that respect, he had a very presidential weekend.
First, there was the Roc Nation brunch on Saturday. Jay hosted the annual pre-Grammy event at the top of the World Trade Center. Mariah Carey, Jennifer Hudson, Diddy, DJ Khaled, Jaden Smith, Remy Ma, Nick Jonas and Iggy Azalea (why?) were there. I don’t understand the dress code for this brunch. Bey and Jay look like they’re going to an Inauguration Ball. There are pictures of Jay and Bey greeting celebrities like royalty or, you know, the Obamas.
From there, they headed to Clive Davis’s pre-Grammy party where Jay was being honoured. Every year, Clive picks an “industry icon” to celebrate. Jay was given a tribute by Alicia Keys who sang a medley of his hits. Then he gave an acceptance speech. According to Variety, Jay recalled boycotting the Grammys because of their treatment of hip-hop.
“I didn’t come back until 2004 when a beautiful, young lady whom I love dearly had a solo album: the beautiful Miss Beyoncé. And I realized, ‘Man, art is super subjective and everyone is doing their best. The Academy is human like we are and they’re voting on things they like and it’s subjective. And if we believe in it — ’cause we do, we can pretend that we don’t care but we really care — we see the most incredible artists stand on that stage and we’re inspired to be that, so I was like, ‘I have to be here.’”
Every year, someone will ask the question: why does anyone still care about the Grammys? I think Jay summed it up pretty well. “We believe in it.” We do. Every young musician grows up dreaming about winning a Grammy. If you have the title “Grammy Award Winner” beside your name, you have officially made it. Doors open. Respect is given. I would love for the BET Awards and NAACP Image Awards to hold the same clout culturally but unfortunately, they don’t. Jay gave this speech while he was the most-nominated artist going into the show, before he walked away without a single award. Do you think he still would say that he believes in the Grammys? In this speech, Jay sounds like an older, wise industry veteran, giving advice to the younger generation. I love that he’s leaned into this role. It felt the same during his appearance on Van Jones’s new CNN show.
Jay’s other big news this weekend stemmed from an interview he did with Van Jones which tackled everything from his marriage to Beyoncé to the #MeToo movement to therapy. It’s a really special conversation that you should really watch in full. If you’ve been following my writing on Jay during this 4:44 era, you won’t be surprised by some of the stuff Jay shares in this interview. Here’s what he says about Beyoncé:
"For us, we chose to fight for our love. For our family. To give our kids a different outcome. To break that cycle for black men and women."
This is why I’m referring to Jay as the president of hip-hop. Not only does he have the talent and discography to back that title up, he has taken on the job of rap’s older statesmen who has no issue with sharing his failures and flaws in hopes that the next generation will do better.
I’m not even going to address the dumb sh-t Donald Trump said about Jay-Z in response to his thoughtful comments on black unemployment. I’ll just note that Klan President never said a word about Eminem’s searing anti-Trump freestyle, call him a f-cking racist and move on.
Throughout the Grammy broadcast, Jay was treated with a reverence that used to be reserved for America’s Commander in Chief… and Oprah. As Lainey would say, he was in the Oprah seat! Front and center (that may have had more to do with Blue and Beyoncé but I’ll let him have this). James Corden gave a long, somewhat awkward tribute that, in hindsight, I think the Recording Academy only did to save face. Trevor Noah also paid his respects to Jay. And then, there was Kendrick. Jay-Z never got up on the Grammy stage last night but he was still honoured and his presence was still felt. This is what I think Kendrick Lamar meant when he said “Jay for President!”
I’ll leave you with a bit more of Jay’s speech at the Clive Davis party:
“That is the idea for all of us: to get involved and to push this thing further no matter what happens at the Grammys. Bob Marley is going to be Bob Marley, whether he’s nominated for a Grammy or not. Tupac is going to be Tupac, Biggie is going to be Biggie.”
And Jay-Z is still Jay-Z, Album of the Year winner or not.