The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its 2014 class of inductees today, and here’s to LL Cool J, NWA and Chic for making the grade.
Oh, wait. It turns out they didn’t.
This year’s class—Nirvana, Kiss, Peter Gabriel, Hall and Oates, Cat Stevens and Linda Ronstadt—are a deserving bunch, and I even own albums by a few of these artists. But rap collective NWA, double-threat rapper-actor LL Cool J and legendary disco-funk band Chic were nominees who got frozen out in 2014. What a shame.
The organization has done an OK job of inducting influential black artists into its hallowed hall—the last class included Donna Summer and Quincy Jones—but the voters who decide such things have been slow to include hip-hop artists, especially since the rock hall’s eligibility period has been bumping up against hip-hop’s golden era (artists are eligible to be nominated 25 years after their first album). Yes, Run-DMC (inducted in 2009), Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five (inducted in 2007) and Public Enemy (inducted in 2013) have been included, but others—such as Eric B. & Rakim, Kool Moe Dee and other rap pioneers—are still waiting for the call.
Although some would question whether hip-hop and R&B deserve to be in a “rock” Hall of Fame, the fact is that induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has become the pinnacle in marking the achievement and influence of all popular music—period.
And when it comes to influence, which genre of music has been the most vilified, co-opted and copied in the past 20 years or so? That would be hip-hop. So here is the argument for why NWA and LL Cool J, as well as disco pioneers Chic, deserve to be inducted.
The hip-hop collective straight outta Compton defined the genre of “gangsta rap” with its gritty, urban tales of dope dealing and gun slinging. The group spawned the careers of Eazy-E, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube and paved the way for artists from Snoop Dogg to Eminem to Kendrick Lamar. NWA scared the hell out of white America (and some parts of black America, too). But it was the type of music that led Chuck D of Public Enemy (Hall of Fame class of 2013) to say that rap is CNN for black people. NWA amplified the voices of a black America no one wanted to hear about. Since then, hip-hop—and music in general—haven’t been the same since.