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.
LL Cool J
With his smooth, lover-boy lyrics, Cool J showed that hip-hop had a romantic side. But don’t mistake his smooth flow for softness; Cool J could bring it with the rest of ’em with “Mama Said Knock You Out” and “I’m Bad.” More important, Cool J was one of the first hip-hop artists to successfully cross over into movies and TV, which has become a standard method for hip-hop artists to wield even more influence.
Disco legends Chic, who hold the current record of eight nominations without being inducted, were the sound of the ’70s. And while that era was tarnished by the misguided (and possibly racist) “disco sucks” backlash, no one can deny the influence that Chic had on our collective asses and on music—the bass line from “Good Times” has became a staple of hip-hop samples. Of course, nowadays disco has been gentrified into EDM (electronic dance music), with groups like Daft Punk dominating the airwaves. And who helped Daft Punk craft their critically acclaimed sound on the 2013 album Random Access Memories, including the hit track “Get Lucky”? Chic co-founder-guitarist Nile Rodgers.
Honorable Mention: The Meters
When it comes to funk, everyone will always think of James Brown (inducted in 1986), Sly and the Family Stone (inducted in 1993) and George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic (inducted in 1997), but that list should include New Orleans funkmeisters The Meters, who have been eligible for inductions for decades but have been nominated only a handful of times. The group have been so influential in the sound of music, particularly in R&B and hip-hop (the list of hip-hop artists who have sampled their work include the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, J Dilla and A Tribe Called Quest), they deserve their own section in the rock hall. You may not have heard of them, but you’ve no doubt heard their sound, including the 1969 single “Cissy Strut,” which has been used in countless movies and TV shows.
Genetta M. Adams is a contributing editor at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.