When N.W.A. were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016, Kiss singer Gene Simmons raised his eyebrows at the inclusion. Sporting an indignant manner, N.W.A. rapper Ice Cube had the perfect put down for him.
Run D.M.C. were the first hip-hop act to be inducted into music’s most exclusive club in 2009, and since then, it’s become the norm for the institution to celebrate rap. Over the last decade, Beastie Boys, N.W.A., Public Enemy and Tupac have all been inducted. Meanwhile, this year’s ceremony even included both Jay-Z and LL Cool J.
Sadly, there will always be people who are reluctant to change or open their minds, and the inclusion of hip hop in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame caused severe unrest to traditionalists.
In 2014, Simmons first spoke about his dismay about the organisation moving away from its rock and roll roots. “A few people decide what’s in and what’s not,” he told Radio.com. “And the masses just scratch their heads. You’ve got Grandmaster Flash in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Run-DMC in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? You’re killing me. That doesn’t mean those aren’t good artists. But they don’t play guitar. They sample and they talk. Not even sing.”
When in 2016, it was announced N.W.A. were among Rock Hall’s inductees, Simmons reared his head once more to condemn the move. He told Rolling Stone, “I am looking forward to the death of rap. I’m looking forward to music coming back to lyrics and melody, instead of just talking. A song, as far as I’m concerned, is by definition lyric and melody… or just melody”
He added, “Rap will die. Next year, ten years from now, at some point, and then something else will come along. And all that is good and healthy.”
In response, Ice Cube reacted to Simmons’ comment and powerfully explained to the face-painted singer why N.W.A were worthy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He said, “The question is, are we rock and roll? And I say you goddamn right we rock and roll. Rock and roll is not an instrument; rock and roll is not even a style of music.
“Rock and roll is a spirit and what connects us all is that spirit. Rock and roll is not conforming to the people who came before you, but creating your own path in music and in life,” he added.
However, the Kiss frontman still wouldn’t back down, and instead tweeted Cube, “Let me know when Jimi Hendrix gets into the hip hop hall of fame. Then you’ll have a point.”
While Simmons may have felt like he had Cube on the ropes, the N.W.A. rapper then delivered a knock-out punch, and pointed out, “Who stole the soul? Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Chubby Checkers help [sic] invent Rock’ n’ Roll. We invent it. Y’all reprint it.”
Music is an ever-evolving beast, the most important criteria for rock and roll is about sticking two fingers up at the system, and who upset the status quo more than N.W.A.? Although they didn’t play guitars or were a band in the traditional sense, their seismic impact deserved honouring.