The nominees for the 2017 class of the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame have been announced, and Tupac Shakur leads a list of first time nominees that also includes Pearl Jam, Journey, Jane’s Addiction, Depeche Mode, and more. If accepted, Shakur would be the sixth Hip-Hop artist admitted to the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, joining Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Run-D.M.C., Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, and N.W.A.
Nominees may only be considered 25 years after their debut recording. The nomination process has been a bit of a black box. Over the years, much has been done to overhaul the Hall Of Fame, which was beginning to be perceived as old and stodgy. In 2015, Billboard reported that at least 16 nominating members had been dismissed from the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. According to the report, the move “wiped out more than half of the Hall’s Early Rock and R&B Influencers subcommittee.” Some speculated that it was a sign the organization was trying to become more in line with the times. Others conjectured that it was an attempt to nominate more mainstream acts, to generate higher ratings for the annual induction ceremonies HBO broadcast.
N.W.A. were inducted into the hall this year, after being passed over in 2015, and, just like their music, their entry was controversial. Purists re-commenced the criticism that Hip-Hop was not Rock & Roll, hence N.W.A. had no place in the organization. Kiss frontman, Gene Simmons, was particularly vocal, saying he was “looking forward to the death of Rap.” MC Ren addressed the marks during his induction speech, retorting “I want to say to Mr. Gene Simmons ‘Hip-Hop is here forever. Get used to it,” with Dr. Dre emphatically chiming in with “We supposed to be here!!”
Ice Cube also spoke to Hip-Hop’s place in the Hall Of Fame, saying definitively “Now, the question is ‘are we Rock & Roll?” And, I say, ‘you goddamn right we Rock & Roll!’ Rock & Roll is not an instrument. Rock & Roll is not even a style of music. Rock & Roll is a spirit. It’s been going since the Blues, Jazz, Bebop, Soul, R&B, Rock & Roll, Heavy Metal, Punk Rock and, yes, Hip-Hop! That’s what connects us all, that spirit. Rock & Roll is not conforming to the people who came before you, but creating your own path, in music and in life. That is Rock & Roll and that is us.”
As Shakur now faces consideration, there is arguably no artist more “Rock & Roll” in any genre. Shakur, as much as anyone, marched to the beat of his own drum. He refused to be put in a box, at times making gangsta music and other times preaching self-empowerment and revolution. His lyrics could veer from misogynistic to feminist, sometimes in the same songs. With acts like spitting at intrusive press, anddaring to shoot two aggressive cops (and beat the charges) his personality was bigger than life making him the epitome of a Rock Star.
Those accepted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Class of 2017 will be announced in December. Here is the full list of nominees:
The J. Geils Band