The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame held its induction ceremony in New York on Friday, and they welcomed N.W.A into the Cleveland museum.
This induction has created a lot of controversy most notably by Gene Simmons of KISS, who said he was looking forward to the death of rap music.
The group responded during its acceptance speech on Friday with MC Ren saying, “I want Gene Simmons to know that hip hop is here forever. We’re supposed to be here.” Ice Cube added, “Are we rock and roll? You’re goddamned right we’re rock and roll!”
Simmons responded on Twitter by saying, “let me know when Jimi Hendrix gets into the hip hop hall of fame. Then you’ll have a point.”
It’s all very stupid.
To begin with, N.W.A. is not the first hip-hop group to be inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Previous inductees include Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, Run D.M.C. and Grandmaster Flash. All, we should note, were inducted prior to KISS.
The blurring of the term “rock and roll” isn’t a recent trend either; the first class of inductees included James Brown, Ray Charles and Sam Cooke, artists whose connection to rock music is somewhat tenuous. We’ve also seen the induction of folk musicians like Woody Guthrie and pop stars like Madonna.
Disregarding the ignorance of Simmons’ comment about the death of rap music, the real problem is that people assume the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s definition of “rock and roll” has any integrity at all, and that the museum is more than just a commercial enterprise intended to trick tourists into visiting Cleveland.
While he didn’t garner the same degree of publicity N.W.A. did by continuing their feud with Gene Simmons, Steve Miller was openly critical of the institution both during his acceptance speech on Friday and when he spoke to press backstage.
“You tell me, what is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?” Miller said. “What does it do besides talk about itself and sell postcards?”
During his speech, he criticized the induction process and the lack of women represented among inductees. Backstage he said the process is difficult and unpleasant, and he wasn’t even able to bring his band with him, because he was told tickets for anyone other than him or his wife would run $10,000 each. He said the show came very close to not even happening because of the Hall of Fame’s poor treatment of artists.
This isn’t saying that going to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame can’t be fun.
It’s cool to mosey around the permanent exhibits, like Jerry Garcia’s guitars and the giant hot dog on which Phish flew into their 1994 New Year’s Eve show at Madison Square Garden. The induction ceremonies usually make for fun viewing if you happen to subscribe to HBO (another example of the museum’s commercial nature) — last year viewers saw the remaining members of Nirvana perform with a few different frontwomen.
It’s also done a decent job of cataloguing important figures in the development of popular music, with the exception of women.
Assuming the organization has any integrity was Gene Simmons’ first mistake even if drawing the line at N.W.A. when there are other rap artists makes him seem like an old, out-of-touch white guy.
Getting inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is only slightly more prestigious than joining one of the honor societies that bombard college students with applications.
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