By Skyeler Sudia
A recent feud between Ice Cube and Gene Simmons has ignited some controversy as to whether or not hip-hop artists should be included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Since rock and roll is an ever-evolving genre, excluding hip-hop artists from the hall of fame would be detrimental to the growth of music.
Both performers are members of the Hall of Fame. Simmons was inducted in 2014 as a member of Kiss and Ice Cube was inducted with N.W.A this past weekend. In recent years, Simmons has argued against the inclusion of hip-hop artists, such as N.W.A, Rolling Stone reported earlier this month. Ice Cube stands in solidarity with the hip-hop community, as well as those welcoming rap into the organization.
Hip-hop acts already inducted into the Hall of Fame include Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five (2007), Run-D.M.C. (2009), Beastie Boys (2012) and Public Enemy (2013).
When rock and roll is discussed, it cannot be limited to a stylistic idea. If that were the case, the Hall of Fame would only include artists who have made an impact on popular music between 1954 and 1963, prior to the Beatles arriving in the United States. Rock and roll as a genre includes Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Buddy Holly — there’s not much more, just a few chords and a simple backbeat.
Rock and roll as a feeling, however, is much more. It includes bands as successful as Led Zeppelin and bands that are unknown, such as the 13th Floor Elevators, and even recent bands, such as Courtney Barnett. There is no limit to rock and roll, since everyone has his or her own view of what it actually is.
Simmons is entitled to his opinion, just as Ice Cube is, though I stand with the N.W.A rapper. Rock and roll is a feeling, an energy and a force. It makes us dance, it makes us smash things, it makes us cry and it makes us fall in love. It’s about a message: maybe political, maybe romantic, maybe even nothing at all — but even nothing at all can be a message.
The bodies of work between the two artists reflect the time period they represent. Kiss was a commercially successful band due to the group’s untamed concerts involving fireworks and fiery showmanship, as well as a successful line of products ranging from lunch boxes to action figures. The music was simple, the energy was pure and the themes of their music mostly involved having a good time.
On the other side of the argument is N.W.A, a collective group of rappers from Compton, located in Los Angeles. Through the joined talent of Ice Cube and company (including Dr. Dre and Eazy-E), the group represented a radical shift in hip-hop, bringing politics and the issues of black Americans to the forefront of popular music. Similar to their predecessors in soul music (many of whom — Parliament-Funkadelic, Sly & the Family Stone and the Temptations, to name a few — are in the Hall of Fame and do not identify with the rock music label), they focused on poverty and racism, while bringing newer issues of gang violence and police brutality to their lyrics.
The spirit of rock and roll lives on in the music of both Kiss and N.W.A. While Kiss ultimately represents the corporatization of rock music, the band’s significance is felt profoundly in music history. People who aren’t fans of the group should also recognize its importance: Without stadium bands like Kiss, punk rock would have never been a reaction. N.W.A embodies the spirit of rock and roll just as much as Kiss does, if not more so. They were rebellious, they scared parents and they gave a voice to those who didn’t have one.
Each person has his or her own opinion of what rock and roll means. It is important to remember, however, that hip-hop embodies the spirit of rock and roll just as much as the any other genre (including rock music itself). Why else would Muddy Waters (blues), Johnny Cash (country), Metallica (heavy metal), Miles Davis (jazz), Michael Jackson (pop) and Otis Redding (soul) be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? It’s because they represent the spirit of rock and roll. As 1995 Hall of Fame inductee Neil Young once put it, “rock and roll can never die.” If enough people believe that’s true, it won’t.
Students share opinions around campus
Hip-hop in the R&R Hall of Fame?
“No, because its not rock and roll.”
“Absolutely, it’s a form of music.”