By Gil Kaufman
They both have the best kind of American story: rising up from difficult backgrounds to the very top of their respective games, marrying strong, successful women and serving as inspirations to a generation of youth.
But on paper, the, dare we call it bromance, between President Obama and Jay-Z is one of the most unlikely political alliances in presidential history. Other presidents have palled around with everyone from Elvis to Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, Michael Jackson and Bono, but there has never been a commander-in-chief who has openly embraced a hip-hop star the way Obama has.
Here’s a look at the two men’s mutual admiration society:
April 17, 2008: Candidate Obama referenced Jay’s “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” by, yes, pretending to brush some dirt off his shoulder in response to the mudslinging attacks from the-rival Hillary Clinton. When Obama spokesperson Tommy Vietor was asked afterwards if the Senator was purposely referring to Jay’s song, he confirmed that Obama, “has some Jay-Z on his iPod.”
November 2008: On the campaign trail in Virginia for Obama, Jay made an impassioned plea for young people to vote. “I can’t tell you who to vote for. All I can do is tell you to vote on November 4, the most important election that will happen probably in your lifetime,” he said. “Rosa Parks sat so that Martin Luther King could walk. Martin Luther King walked so that Obama could run. Obama’s running so that we all can fly … I can’t wait until November 5 and I’m going to say: ’Hello, Brother President’.” It was one of several rallies Jay headlined, in which he also recruited pals Mary J. Blige, Diddy and wife Beyoncé.
January 2009: Beyoncé sang Etta James’ “At Last”? for the Obama’s first dance at their inaugural ball. Earlier in the weekend, Obama introduced Jay when he performed at the campaign’s official staff party.
February 2010: The rapper, who referenced Obama in the lyrics to Young Jeezy’s “My President,”? reveals that he’s been invited to the White House a number of times and one time when he called The Blueprint? was playing in the background while Obama worked out.
March 2010: Jay and Bey visit the White House, with a VIP tour that includes a peek at the Situation Room.
April 2012: It’s not just the men who’ve bonded. Beyoncé penned a love letter to First Lady Michelle Obama earlier this year, in which she called Michelle, “the ULTIMATE example of a truly strong African-American woman … not matter the pressure, and the stress of being under the microscope — she’s humble, love and sincere. Michelle, thank you so much for every single thing that u do for us — I am proud to have my daughter grow up in a world where she has people like you to look up to.” That same month, asked by the Atlantic whether he preferred Kanye West or Jay’s music, the president smiled and said, “Jay-Z.”
May 2012: Jay sings Obama’s praises after the president announces hissupport for states legitimizing same-sex marriages.? “I’ve always thought it as something that was still … holding the country back,” he said. “What people do in their own homes is their business and you can choose to love whoever you love. That’s their business. [It] is no different than discriminating against blacks. It’s discrimination plain and simple.” At the time, Jay also told CNN that Obama is a better choice than Mitt Romney by “leaps and bounds.”
September 1, 2012: During Jay’s Made in America festival performance in Philadelphia, the rapper rolled out a special message from the presidenton the big screen as tens of thousands of fans cheered on. “To me, the idea of America is that no matter who you are, what you look like or where you come from, you can make it if you try. Jay-Z did it,” Obama said in the pre-taped message following “Public Service Announcement.” “He didn’t come from power or privilege. He got ahead because he worked hard, learned from his mistakes and just plain refused to quit. That’s what ’made in America’ means.”
September 18, 2012: President Obama had some high words of praise for his hosts on Tuesday night, joking that he’s actually got a lot in common with rap superstar, and new dad, Jay. “Jay-Z now knows, you know, what my life is like,” he said. “We both have daughters. And our wives are more popular than we are … So we’ve got a little bond there. It’s hard, but it’s okay.” He also noted that first wife Michelle and his daughters Malia and Sasha were mad at him because they could not make it to the fundraiser on a school night. Obama thanked both stars for their generosity toward his children and singled out Beyoncé for being a good example to the girls. “Beyoncé could not be a better role model for our daughters because she carries herself with such class and poise,” he said. “And has so much talent.”