The question: Should N.W.A. be inducted into the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame?
The answer: a resounding “Yes.”
The reasoning is as simple as googling the criteria for inclusion to the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame, which they admit is not very clear. The only hard rule is that acts become eligible for induction 25 years after their first album. Other, more vague, criteria include “the influence and significance of the artists’ contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll.” Clearly, rock as a genre to the committee is a very broad term that includes all genres like hip-hop, disco and country music.
To be real, I didn’t even like N.W.A. when they first came out in the late ’80s. I came to appreciate them, because they were dope — plain and simple.
Ice Cube and MC Ren stand side by side with any of the great lyricists of that era and this era. No question. Dr. Dre is a producer with few peers. You will be hard pressed to find a more interesting antagonist than Eazy-E, the man that founded the whole movement. Now, people can dislike N.W.A., or offer conspiracy theories but their impact..can they refute that?
No N.W.A., no Ice Cube, solo artist.
No N.W.A., no Death Row Records.
No N.W.A., no Snoop Dogg.
No N.W.A., no Eminem.
No N.W.A., no Kendrick Lamar.
And frankly, N.W.A. inspired countless, innumerable rappers from Tupac Shakur down to the present-day ratchet rapper. (Shoot, Dr. Dre influenced Puffy, Biggie and Bad Boy Records’ whole sound. Believe that.) Their impact is almost unparalleled, for better or worse, and there are groups already inducted in the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame that have nearly nonexistent impact compared to the Ni**az With Attitude.
That impact is so pervasive to this day, detractors are actually trying to blame the South-Central-reared act for all the ills of hip-hop and, more broadly, the black community. Granted, N.W.A. burst the door open, but they were not the first to talk about violence. They were not the first to use the n-word. They were not the first to offer angry, gritty tales of street life. They didn’t invent black-on-black violence or gangs. For the most part, they were relaying what they saw, but they stripped away the need to include prerequisite lines decrying wrong like many rappers before them.
Public Enemy, already in the Hall of Fame, is one of my favorite groups ever, but we cannot act and pretend like the masses were never going to tire of pro-black radicalism being spewed at them. The masses include people of all races, creeds, backgrounds and persuasions. These are the people that pushed N.W.A. (and Public Enemy alike) to the top and, at one point it seemed like the establishment did everything they could to stop them. That made them even more appealing in a great many ways. They now had the same foe as Public Enemy — the system. This included the FBI and mainstream urban radio, which was not welcoming of hip-hop.
Furthermore, and deeper still, we cannot act like N.W.A. — a decadently counterculture group — weren’t partially influenced by the gloriously rebellious Public Enemy or the criminally under-heralded Ice-T. N.W.A. didn’t co-opt the conscious movement in rap. Public Enemy even joined forces with Ice Cube once he left the group. The parallels between the groups are always overlooked.
Furthermore, nowhere in the rules is there some sort of moral clause that forbids an artist from being inducted in the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame. If that was the case, nobody would be in it. Similarly, they are not required to even make the world a better place, per se. Most artists failed at that too, even my homeboy Stevie Wonder. Stevie’s lush sounds have not sustained black people in any prolonged, meaningful way, and he’s my favorite artist of all time. Although James Brown wrote “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud,” he also wrote “Sex Machine.” He also had his share of tussles with the law in his personal life. So, lets not pretend that NWA didn’t have that necessary duality that most complex, great acts have.
As far as I can discern, all of the entertainers in the Hall of Fame have songs (and real lives) that deal with a bevy of conflicting notions — explicit sex, love, drugs, life, lust, death, violence and overall, degenerate behavior. If you look at past honorees, there is no way that N.W.A. is suddenly singled out because of some invisible promise to black people. That promise doesn’t exist. If anything, we need to join together once and for all and reclaim the minds of our youth, who are now in love with N.W.A.’s mutants like Chief Keef. If we allowed a singular rap group to decimate a movement, we never really had a movement.
Its just so much more deeper than N.W.A.
Now, let them in the Rock-N-Roll Hall Of Fame where they belong.
Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur is a father, son and the co-founder of AllHipHop.com. He’s a cultural critic, pundit and trailblazer that has been featured on National Public Radio (NPR), BET, TVOne, VH1, The E! Channel, MTV, The O’Reilly Factor, USA Today, The New York Times, New York’s Hot 97 FM and like a zillion other outlets.