There are a lot of legitimate reasons to be peeved that N.W.A. is one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 2016 inductees. For instance, there’s the whole thing about how Dr. Dre (like many other notable inductees, including Marvin Gaye and John Lennon) admitted to abusing women. There’s also the six other nominees of color who were snubbed in favor of N.W.A., making the group the only inductee whose members are predominantly people of color. And you could certainly be mad that no women were inducted—fans are especially mad about Janet Jackson‘s omission. Hell, you could even talk about how screwed up the induction process is, with its total lack of transparency and seeming disregard for popular votes.
But much of the anti-N.W.A. chatter surrounding yesterday’s (December 16) induction announcement focuses on the fact that their music was not rock and roll. Never mind N.W.A.’s tremendous influence on music to come, or the members’ work with rock musicians or the timeliness of the biopic’s record-setting success—people are still pissed that an incendiary rap group beat out some good ol’ guitar-and-drum acts:
NWA will be inducted into the #RockandRollHallOfFame. Makes me wonder, when will Metallica be inducted into the Country Hall of Fame?
— RON ™ (@LawnRanger60) December 17, 2015
What much of this anger ignores is that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, perhaps knowing that genre classification is fluid and that rock and roll can encompass more than a rigid definition of a style, has already inducted a number of influential rappers: Public Enemy in 2013, the Beastie Boys in 2012 (the same year as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, whose early hits formed the basis of rap-rock to come) and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five in 2007 (the first hip-hop group to be inducted). It also forgets that many inductees—like Curtis Mayfield, Otis Redding and Donna Summer, just to name a few—did not make music in the genre many would label as rock.
Of course, the hand-wringing about what is "real" rock and roll completely avoids the truth that Black musicians created the genre, and that the things that made rock so confrontational—its defiant pose, its insistence on spitting America’s problems back in its face—have been carried into the present by Black hip-hop acts. Despite what the rock purists might tell themselves, insistence that certain acts aren’t worthy of induction because they don’t adhere to traditionalist rock standards comes from a place of racist erasure, discrediting music that Black America created after rock and roll was appropriated and standardized by White culture.
What do you think? Should N.W.A. be recognized by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Let us know in the comments!