Barack Obama reveals Jay-Z song that influenced his presidency
Obama says Jay-Z's 'My 1st Song' inspired him to overcome his insecurities during his first White House campaign
When Barack Obama was asked recently to recite a rap verse from memory, one song by Jay-Z came to mind.
That song was “My 1st Song,” which was on the Brooklyn rapper’s 2003 Grammy-nominated album, The Black Album. In a clip shared on social media, the former president, who calls Chicago home, said in response to a question from Complex that he related to the song, particularly during his first White House campaign in 2008.
“It talks about the struggle of just trying to make it,” Obama said. “Sometimes you have to result to false bravado and hustle and tamping down your insecurities. When I was running for president, obviously, at that point I didn’t know if I was going to make it. So, somehow that inspired me.”
Obama, however, was self-deprecating about his way with words and declined to rap a verse, though he did recite lines from the song’s hook.
“Treat my first like my last, and my last like my first/And my thirst is the same as when I came.”
Obama stated that it was a song he constantly returned to throughout his presidency to remind himself 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.”
The comments come as Obama promotes his new Spotify podcast with singer/songwriter Bruce Springsteen, Renegades: Born in the USA. Complex, a hip hop culture news outlet, noted the former commander-in-chief’s affinity for rap artists like Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar and Drake.
“My 1st Song” was the last song on The Black Album, which at the time was promoted to be Jay-Z’s final album. The song’s theme echoes Obama’s thoughts on keeping the same focus one has at the bottom once he or she reaches the top.
The song begins with a clip of the late rapper Notorious B.I.G. The audio is from an MTV interview where he relays advice he received from Sean “Diddy” Combs.
“The key to staying on top of things is to treat everything like it’s your first project,” Biggie stated. “That’s how you treat things, like, just stay hungry.”
In the song’s second verse, Jay-Z rhymed, “Like I never rode in a limo/Like I just dropped flows to a demo.”
The billionaire MC was rapping about how he needed to give his last album the same heart and attention as he did before he was famous. Jay-Z, however, infamously came out of retirement in 2006 and has released seven albums since, including award-winning collaborative albums like Watch The Throne with Kanye West in 2011 and Everything is Love with Beyoncé, his wife, in 2018.
Obama has often used music as a way to connect with people.
His official website has specially curated “Presidential Playlists,” which include hip hop songs.
His Summer of 2016 playlist includes rap songs like Wale‘s “LoveHate Thing,” Common‘s “Forever Begins” and Nas and Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley‘s “As We Enter.”
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