N.W.A. says rock ‘n’ roll is ‘not an instrument and it’s not singing’

icecubeRock sensations Cheap Trick, Chicago, Deep Purple, and Steve Miller were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Friday, however, the rap/hip hop group N.W.A. was also awarded the honor of induction into the Hall — and not without controversy.

N.W.A. is one of the only rap/hip hop groups to join the Hall of Fame, and while some rockers (like Kiss’ Gene Simmons) think a hip hop group doesn’t belong in a rockers’ haven, N.W.A. member Ice Cube told The New York Times rock ‘n’ roll is not “an instrument and it’s not singing.”

“I respect Gene Simmons, but I think he’s wrong on this,” Ice Cube told the Times. “Rock ‘n’ roll is a spirit. N.W.A. is probably more rock ‘n’ roll than a lot of the people that he thinks belong there over hip hop. We had the same spirit as punk rock, the same as the blues.”

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Traditionally rock music has always been about spirit hand-in-hand with a particular musical style. While rock continues to evolve in the 21st century, more and more rock enthusiasts cling to the rock of the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s as a bedrock for defining the genre. Artists like Elvis, Johnny Cash, the Beatles, Journey, Queen, and Pearl Jam — among many, many others — will always be revered as the standard for what is rock ‘n’ roll.

N.W.A. may very well embody the spirit of rock — the themes of freedom, power, and authenticity — but N.W.A. is no rock ‘n’ roll band. If Ice Cube wants to call himself “rock ‘n’ roll,” he’s going to have to completely undo and redefine what more than half a century of music has built. Otherwise, he can pick up a guitar and start crooning.

By Adam Bielawski (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

8 comments to “N.W.A. says rock ‘n’ roll is ‘not an instrument and it’s not singing’”
  1. Great article, some real food for thought. I would argue that embodying the spirit of Rock is good enough, but I understand the purist standpoint too. It’s a discussion that could go on forever, and I hope it does.

    • I’m so on the fence here… I agree about the spirit of rock, but it’s not a “music” hall of fame. I’d vote on not having them, but I respect the decision.

  2. Why can’t the spirit of rebellion take many different forms? I don’t think it’s a coincidence that hip-hop and punk both developed in NYC in the late 1970’s. There was something in the air that both movements were able to harness in different ways.

    Punk is more than playing fast. It’s closer to playing slow when they expect you to play fast. Punk, and rock as a whole, is about subverting expectations and delivering something real and new.

    That being said, Beefheart is right on the money: While I love hip-hop, it’s not classified as “rock and roll” in the sense that we conventionally use it, and there is no reason to include hip-hop artists in the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” If the people who induct bands have run out of ideas for eligible rock groups to induct, they should probably consult me.

  3. In response to Ice Cube calling him out during NWA’s induction, Gene Simmons tweeted an appropriate response:

    “Respectfully– let me know when @JimiHendrix gets into the hip hop hall of fame. Then youll have a point. @icecube”

  4. Make them Token Members.Parade them around like they were the only black employee in a company(TOKEN).
    I hear the race card being pulled out again to proclaim “Whitey as racist…”
    They are not rock and Roll they are
    Attitude its Hip-hop not Rock n Roll you mindless twits…

  5. Pingback: 3 reasons Steve Miller attacked the Rock Hall right after his induction | Rocknuts

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