Jay Z will become the first rapper to join the prestigious Songwriters Hall of Fame as a member of the class of 2017. The award does not have the higher profile of the Grammys or Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, in part because the often-moving ceremony is not televised and the honorees are often names not known to the general public. However, many songwriters and artists consider the honor the pinnacle of their career.
Songwriters are eligible 20 years after they were first published. Jay Z’s first album, Reasonable Doubt, came out in 1996, the same year that fellow superstar rapper, Eminem, released his first album, so the two are both newly eligible with Jay Z getting the nod this year. (There are, of course, other pioneering rappers who came long before Jay Z or Eminem, like Grandmaster Flash or the Beastie Boys, who deserve consideration).
SHOF president Moran explained the process exclusively to this FORBES contributor: “There are hundreds of writers to be considered, so the committee goes through several rounds of cutting names until they get to the final 12. Jay Z is just the first rapper to make the final cut. There is no intention on our part to change the way we do things because we have always given writers of all genres a fair review and chance to be on the ballot. As far as Eminem goes, he is extremely qualified, but the committee felt that Jay Z was more qualified to be the first rapper to be inducted. (An interesting note there is that the committee has always been conscious of honoring the fathers before the children, so to speak. I would say it is a respect issue.)
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