If this was a hip-hop room—to get that introduction and people are expecting to see Jay, and they see Jon Platt walk out here…? [Laughter]
Tonight, I humbly stand before you on behalf of my friend and my brother Shawn Carter, better known to the world as Jay Z. I’ve only known one other songwriter whose songwriting has launched so many companies and created careers for so many other people—hundreds of people—and that man was also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame tonight as a songwriter: Mr. Berry Gordy. Mr. Gordy, I wish you could have seen how Jay’s eyes lit up when I told him you were both being inducted on the same night. It was really special. And to all the inductees tonight, Jay salutes your achievements as well.
I can’t begin to tell you how much this honor means to me–I’m sorry, [laughing] it’s not my award—I can’t begin to tell you how much this award means to Jay. He’s really sorry he can’t be here with you tonight. So let me start as I think Jay would, by acknowledging some of the most important people in his life: his lovely wife and daughter, and Jay’s mother and grandmother are here tonight. And if Jay would have been here tonight, he made it known that he wanted to sit right between both of you because you are two of the most important people in his life. Jay’s sisters Annie and Michelle are here, as well as his cousin, and some of his closest friends: Ty Ty Smith, Emory Jones, and I know Jay wouldn’t leave without acknowledging Jay Brown and the rest of his Roc Nation family.
You know, I was deeply moved when Jay reached out and asked me to step in and accept this induction on his behalf. I was so moved that I learned something about New York—because when he told me he wanted me to do this for him, I just started crying. And when you’ve got a six-foot-six black dude walking down the street in New York crying, people start to get out of your way really fast! [Laughter] But it touched me that deeply.
I’ve worked with Jay for over 20 years, since just after the release of his first album, ‘Reasonable Doubt.’ And I’ll never forget the moment when I first heard that album. Yes, the songs were great, but the songwriting was next level. And at that moment I knew I was listening to a rare kind of genius and that was a person that I absolutely had to meet. That first meeting led to not just an epic business relationship but one of the greatest friendships of my life.
But what’s so incredible about Jay is that after selling after more than 100 million albums, Jay is one of the most self-aware superstars you’ll ever meet. As the great Quincy Jones put it, 'Jay Z knows why God gave us two ears and one mouth: because it means you’re supposed to listen twice as much as you talk.’
Jay Z accepts not just the benefits of his fame, but also the responsibilities of it. He understands what his work means to his millions of fans around the world just as much as he understands how important it is that he’s becoming the first rap artist to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. And he also knows that so many came before him that didn’t get this opportunity and didn’t receive this honor.
You see, when it comes to the industry’s biggest honors, the hip-hop community has a very long history of being told 'You’re not songwriters,’ 'You’re not quite there yet,’ 'It’s not your time yet.’ Well, to all the songwriters and artists from our community and our generation, Jay would want you to know that this induction is a signal that your time has come and your time is now. He would tell up-and-coming hip-hop artists today that there can be no mistake or question that you are indeed songwriters, and your gift cannot ever be overlooked. And Jay would want you to know that as proud as he is to be the first, he’s even more proud that he won’t be the last.
I’ve been in this business a long time and I’ve seen a lot of things come and go. But legends? Legends are forever, and tonight Shawn Carter takes his rightful place among the legends in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and this moment will live on forever. On behalf of Jay, I thank you for this honor of a lifetime.
“Big Jon” Platt, speaking on behalf of Jay Z during the Songwriters Hall of Fame induction ceremony in New York City on June 15, 2017.