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Jay Z is having quite a week. On the heels of rumors that he and wife Beyonce welcomed twins in Los Angeles, the New York native became the first rapper to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

What made the honor so much more special was former President Barack Obama’s speech given during Thursday night’s ceremony — which, by the way, Jay did not attend.

In a video tribute to the rapper, Obama called Jay “a friend of mine and first-ballot Hall of Famer” before launching into a speech about he and Jay’s connection.

“I think Mr. Carter and I understand each other. Nobody who met us as younger men would have expected us to be where we are today,” Obama said.

He continued, “We know what it’s like not to have a father around. We know what it’s like to not come from much, and to know people who didn’t get the same breaks as we did. So we try to prop open those doors of opportunity so that it’s a little easier for those who come up behind us have it a littler easier as well.”

The politician then suggested that their wives were more popular than them — something we completely concur with. “Like all of you, I am a fan: I’ve been listening to Jay since I was a young and hungry state senator,” Michelle Obama’s husband said.

He explained, “I sampled his lyrics to close his speech at Selma, and tweeted a reference to ‘My First Song’ when I was putting the finishing touches on my final State of the Union address. I had to ‘brush some dirt off my shoulders’ during a campaign. So I’m pretty sure I’m still the only president to listen to Jay Z’s music in the Oval Office.”

Former POTUS concluded his tribute with this quote: “I never looked at myself and said ‘I need to be a certain way to be around a certain sort of people.’ I’ve always wanted to stay true to myself and I managed to do that. People have to accept that.”

Following the ceremony, attended by Jay’s mother, grandmother, sisters and friends, the rapper took to Twitter to thank his fellow artists who inspired him, including Lauryn Hill, Nicki Minaj, Queen Latifah, and “the greatest rapper of all time OBAMA . Thank you 44.”


Exclusive: The Bullet Scars That Will Forever Haunt Sheryl Lee Ralph’s Son, Etienne Maurice



Sheryl Lee Ralph shared a graphic photo on Instagram earlier this week of her son, Etienne Maurice, laying in a hospital bed bandaged up from bullet wounds. The purpose of the image was to be yet another voice calling to end gun violence.

On Wednesday, students across the country walked out of class to protest against gun violence, something that hit home for Ralph four years ago. “This mother wants #gunreform now! #guncontrol now,” she wrote.

It was during a night out in West Philadelphia that Ralph’s then 22-year-old child was robbed at gunpoint and shot three times; twice in the leg and one which grazed his forehead.

So as Ralph joined Wednesday’s national conversation about gun laws, HipHollywood talked exclusively with Etienne who shared exactly what went down the night a gun could have taken his life for good.

“I was shot four years ago, November 9 … I was black out drunk. The next thing I know I remember I woke up in the hospital, doctor said I had two bullet holes in my leg and a grazed bullet hole above my eyebrow.”

Maurice, who was robbed for his iPhone and his wallet, went on to tell us that this is something that he is reminded of constantly. “Having been shot is something that I carry with me every day. I still have numbness at the bottom of my leg from the nerve damage.”

And while he will always remember how he felt knowing his life almost ended, Etienne had a hard time fathoming how his famous mother felt. “We had the conversation about it last week and she said she peed on herself,” he told us.

For Maurice, he’s proud to see young children use their voices to make change. “There’s so many angles where we can talk about gun violence and how it’s effecting different communities,” he said. “Gun reform needs to take place now.”

Since that night, he hasn’t picked up a drink and has been now sober for four years. As for the suspects, a father-son duo, they are behind bars for attempted man slaughter.

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