Former U.S. President Barack Obama has shared a long parallel history with JAY-Z.
In 2017, when Shawn Carter became the first rapper inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, it was the 44th POTUS there to give the introductory speech.
“We know what it’s like not to have a father around,” Obama said via remote broadcast. “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 try to prop open the door of opportunity so that it’s a little easier for those who come up behind us to succeed as well.”
An August 2020 profile on CNN titled “Beyoncé, Jay-Z and the Obamas: Inside a friendship” also went the lengths of showing how the two Black entrepreneurs beat the odds in America.
On Friday (April 2), Barack Obama once again was able to break out his JAY-Z members-only jacket by discussing one of his favorite Hov tracks. While addressing questions gathered to boost his Spotify podcast Renegades: Born In The U.S.A. with Bruce Springsteen, Complex asked if there was any particular rap verse he could spit off the top of his head.
While declining to actually rap (and likely avoiding eternal meme damnation), he did cite a verse JAY-Z’s 2003 track “My 1st Song” as inspiration to keep pushing during his first presidential run in 2008.
“I’ve mentioned a couple of songs that even when I was running for president came up a lot on my iPod,” he said, recalling the historic era where he emerged as the country’s first Black president. “One of them was ‘My 1st Song’ by Jay-Z, which is a song that I love because it talks about the struggle of just trying to make it. And sometimes you have to resort to false bravado and hustle and tamping down your insecurities and when I was running for president, obviously, at that point I didn’t know whether I was gonna make it.”
The record appeared on JAY-Z’s The Black Album and was initially intended to be the swan song of his career, having accepted the position of president at Def Jam in 2004 (more of those aforementioned parallels in play).
It was one batch of bars in particular that made the future commander-in-chief achieve a new mindset going into the last days of the grueling campaign trail.
“There’s a line in there, ‘Treat my first as my last and my last as my first and my thirst is the same as when I came,’” Obama continued. “And I actually kept on listening to that song during the presidency because it was a reminder that—even when you do make it—having a little bit of that sense of still being hungry, still having to work hard, still having to prove something, that’s what keeps propelling you forward. But I’m still not gonna rap it.”
Although JAY-Z has released plenty of projects since its release, The Black Album spawned the Billboard hit singles, “99 Problems”, “Dirt off Your Shoulder” and “Change Clothes,” inspired several notable remix albums and was certified 3x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.