The celebration came early for Jay-Z. On Saturday, Jan. 27, the legendary rapper was handed an award as his peers performed to honor his legacy.
Empire State Of Mind
Held at the Sheraton Hotel in Times Square, the pre-Grammy Gala last weekend was attended by some of the industry's biggest stars such as Diddy, Mariah Carey, John Legend, Chrissy Teigen, Tina Fey, Jerry Seinfeld, Martha Stewart, Sting, Rob Reiner, Jamie Foxx, Katie Holmes, and Ivana Trump. Beyoncé was also at the event to support her husband, Jay-Z, who received the Grammy Salute to Industry Icons Award.
Alicia Keys took the stage to perform a medley of Jay-Z's greatest hits including "Empire State of Mind," a song released in 2012 from the album The Blueprint 3. She also performed "Can't Knock the Hustle," "Hard Knock Life," "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)," and "Run This Town."
"Before anything else I was a true fan of your music Jay, and still am," Keys addressed Jay-Z. "I walked down the streets with my headphones on and my Tims and baggy jeans, and your [music] was my soundtrack."
Meanwhile, during his short acceptance speech, Jay-Z revealed that he decided early on his career to boycott the Grammys because he felt that hip-hop was being slighted. However, his opinion of the awards ceremony changed when his wife released a solo album.
"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," he stated. "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.'"
The crowd joined the celebration of the famous rapper by chanting "Hova, Hova," a referenced to his self-proclaimed title, "god of rap." At one point, television host John Oliver threw up the Roc symbol to reference Jay-Z's old label Roc-A-Fella Records.
New York, New York
The event also celebrated the Grammy's return to New York City for the first time in 15 years. The night featured performances from Gladys Knight, Jennifer Hudson, Migos, Luis Fonsi, Barry Manilow, and more.
Knight performed a Broadway medley with Ben Platt and Leslie Odom Jr. The trio sang "Waving Through A Window" from Dear Evan Hansen, "The Room Where It Happens" from Hamilton, and "Stand By Me" from Smokey Joe's Cafe.
At the event, host Clive Davis also announced that Hudson will play the role of Aretha Franklin in an upcoming biopic. He revealed that the Queen of Soul personally chose the Academy Award-winning singer-actress to star in the movie.