E - This 1966 file photo shows world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Rap mogul Jay Z remembered the boxing legend who died June 3, 2016,, “His bravery and selflessness was inspirational. The most impressive human I have ever come across. He is literally my hero.” (AP Photo, File)

E – This 1966 file photo shows world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Rap mogul Jay Z remembered the boxing legend who died June 3, 2016,, “His bravery and selflessness was inspirational. The most impressive human I have ever come across. He is literally my hero.” (AP Photo, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Muhammad Ali was not a rapper, but to many of the genre’s best lyricists, he was influential in paving the way for hip-hop stars to succeed and had a lasting impact on the art form.

Ali was hip-hop: He was boastful, he trash-talked, he was a strong poet and he could freestyle. He also was not afraid to tackle race relations head-on.

And rappers love saying his name, referencing his iconic career or reciting “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee” in their songs, including the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” the Fugees’ “Ready or Not,” EPMD’s “You’re a Customer” and Will Smith’s “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It.”

From Jay Z to Eminem to Chuck D, some of hip-hop’s strongest voices remember the late, great Ali in their own words, through statements and interviews with The Associated Press.

 

 Ali died last Friday at the age of 74 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.
In this Feb. 22, 2015 file photo, Jay Z arrives at the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

In this Feb. 22, 2015 file photo, Jay Z arrives at the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

JAY Z

“His bravery and selflessness was inspirational. The most impressive human I have ever come across. He is literally my hero.”

In this July 20, 2015 file photo, Eminem attends the premiere of "Southpaw" in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

In this July 20, 2015 file photo, Eminem attends the premiere of “Southpaw” in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

EMINEM

“Muhammad Ali has been a constant source of inspiration and a heroic figure throughout my life. He’s always been there, as a symbol for fighting against the odds, the system and the hatred. It’s hard to believe he’s actually not with us anymore, but he will never be gone.”

Sean Combs arrives at the 71st annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Sean Combs arrives at the 71st annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

SEAN COMBS

“Muhammad Ali was a champion. He was a strong black role model for the community and one of the most powerful men I’ve ever met. He was also an important figure in my life, really a father figure. Ali taught us all to never give up, and his dedication and determination left a legacy of perseverance in the face of hardship. He may not have had the ability to speak due to his illness, but his presence was no less powerful and his message was always clear. He was the greatest, not only in his sport but in the way he carried himself in life.”

“Muhammad Ali was never afraid to speak his mind,” Combs continued. “He beat his opponents with his word before he ever stepped in to face them in the ring. He was a poet and a showman. And in a lot of ways, he was the first great MC.”

In this July 3, 2015 file photo, Slick Rick poses in the press room at 2015 Essence Music Festival Concert at Superdome in New Orleans. (Photo by Donald Traill/Invision/AP, File)

In this July 3, 2015 file photo, Slick Rick poses in the press room at 2015 Essence Music Festival Concert at Superdome in New Orleans. (Photo by Donald Traill/Invision/AP, File)

SLICK RICK

“Without question, Muhammed Ali’s rhymes were the beginnings of rap music. Along with his tremendous athletic talent, he provided all of us with an image of strength, intelligence, self-assurance, and an in-your-face confidence that one could only admire. To me, Muhammed Ali was a rare unique gem — no additives, no preservatives. All walks of life could feel Ali’s passion with everything that he touched.”

This image released by the Tribeca Film Festival shows Nas in a scene from the documentary, "Time is Illmatic." The film, which follows the trajectory of Nas’ 1994 landmark debut album, "Illmatic," will open the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival on April 16. The festival will run through April 27. (AP Photo/Tribeca Film Festival)

This image released by the Tribeca Film Festival shows Nas in a scene from the documentary, “Time is Illmatic.”  (AP Photo/Tribeca Film Festival)

NAS

“Float like a butterfly & sting like a bee was bigger than all rap hits combined. Ali wasn’t a rapper but was the first rap superstar. He was one of the first Americans who you didn’t even have to meet in person but can still learn how to be a man by watching his ways,” said Nas, who referenced Ali in his songs “The Message” and “My Generation.”

“Brave man, woman or child could have learned to be a better human just by hearing him speak. May he rest in paradise forever.”

MC Lyte (AP Photo/File)

MC Lyte (AP Photo/File)

MC LYTE

“I remember watching Muhammed Ali talk his talk, but what I loved about him the most is he walked that walk. He was so outspoken, so courageous that his energy was contagious. We loved him as a boxer, but really he stood as a leader of our communities across the U.S. and in Africa.

“Ali was the champ but he was also a rapper,” Lyte continued. “I loved hearing him scat. He was so unpredictable in many ways; you never knew what he’d say to a reporter that likely went too far. There is no doubt that he was the people’s choice and the peoples’ champ.

“Muhammed Ali will forever be remembered for his never dying love for his people. He took a stand when hardly anyone else would or could.”

In this Dec. 12, 2014 file photo, Pharrell Williams poses in the Z100 Jingle Ball press room at Madison Square Garden in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

In this Dec. 12, 2014 file photo, Pharrell Williams poses in the Z100 Jingle Ball press room at Madison Square Garden in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

PHARRELL

“When his fights would come on, my family would sit around … what I would call a floor model television … and it was kind of like the minute he started winding it up and he started dancing around the room, he could make the whole room stand up,” Pharrell said in an interview.

“Beyond his condition at the time, you could still see that fighting spirit in him. It was almost like he could be saying the poetry that he would often spew off when he was excited about something. You could see that same spirit in him. I think we lost somebody super special. … Ali was the greatest.”

In this June 21, 2013 file photo, Chuck D of the rap group Public Enemy performs on Day 1 of the Firefly Music Festival at The Woodlands, in Dover, Del. There’s no one more proud of hip-hop than Chuck D. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer says watching young rappers make their voices heard on the ground in Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of Mike Brown’s death is inspiring and a foot in the right direction for the genre. (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP, file)

In this June 21, 2013 file photo, Chuck D of the rap group Public Enemy performs on Day 1 of the Firefly Music Festival at The Woodlands, in Dover, Del. (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP, file)

CHUCK D

“Muhammad Ali was an Earthizen,” Chuck D said, referring to the 2015 Public Enemy song “Earthizen.”

“He transcended what he was told to be in Louisville to become the maximum definition of a Human Being.”

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Associated Press writer Kristin M. Hall contributed to this report.

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