By Brian Ives
N.W.A. has just been announced as one of this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, the fifth hip-hop act to receive the honor, joining Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, Run-D.M.C., the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy.
Clearly, the Rock Hall casts a wide net when it comes to defining what “rock and roll” is, but it’s also clear that hip-hop has been an influence on all genres of music, rock included, for a long time.
With that in mind, here’s five other artists we’d love to see inducted in the next few years.
1. LL Cool J – He’s such a huge media personality these days (you may have heard that he’s hosting the GRAMMYs for the fifth time in February), that it’s easy to forget how seminal he was to early hip-hop. His 1985 debut, Radio, didn’t just contain classics like “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” and “Rock the Bells,” it was the first LP released on the Def Jam label. LL was also the first hip-hop artist to fall off and then comeback (although he instructed us, in no uncertain terms, not to call it that) in “Mama Said Knock You Out.”
2. Ice-T – Like LL, he moved on to other forms of media when his music career slowed down, but his early albums 1987’s Rhyme Pays and 1988’s Power were some of the first gangsta rap albums, with the former predating Straight Outta Compton. Ice-T was way more sonically adventurous, and rock friendly, than most of his contemporaries: 1989’s The Iceberg kicked off with an intro called “Shut Up, Be Happy,” which sampled Black Sabbath and featured guest vocals by punk rock icon Jello Biafra. And that was all before Ice formed his rock band Body Count. Ice-T also toured on the first Lollapalooza trek along with Jane’s Addiction, Living Colour and the Rollins Band.
3. A Tribe Called Quest – They may not have had the aggression of some of their peers, but what they did have was endless creativity. Simply put, their first three albums — 1990’s People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, 1991’s The Low End Theory and 1993’s Midnight Marauders — were mind-blowing, and still are today. Like Pink Floyd’s albums, it seems like you were hearing something new every time you put these records on.
4. Tupac Shakur – It takes a big man to do a tender song about one’s mother – few rock and rollers have done that – but Tupac did with “Dear Mama.” That’s just the tip of the iceberg with Pac; even if his sound wasn’t rock and roll, his attitude was, speaking truth to power and spitting in the face of conformity.
5. Ice Cube – Yeah, he’s getting in this year with N.W.A., but there’s a ton of two-time rock and pop inductees in the Hall, including Curtis Mayfield, John Lennon, Jimmy Page and Michael Jackson. Cube can surely be considered for his solo career, which saw him pushing more boundaries after he quit N.W.A. on his own records, including 1990’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, 1990’s Kill at Will EP, 1991’s Death Certificate, 1992’s The Predator and 1993’s Lethal Injection. He wasn’t just relevant, he was actually dangerous for longer than most artists are. Sure, Dre could also be considered for his solo career, but Cube’s solo discography seems to have a bit more weight, even if it’s earned less platinum plaques.