November 8, 2016

tribe

Nitish Pahwa wrote in Kanye West for the 2016 election.

Much to Gene Simmons’ chagrin, the legendary Tupac Shakur is one of the many storied names up for induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. As the only rapper on 2017 ballot, Pac’s spirit will compete with several well-regarded acts to ostensibly be enshrined in Cleveland, including Bad Brains, Chaka Khan, Janet Jackson, Joe Tex, and Kraftwerk.

If 2Pac is inducted, he’ll only be the sixth hip-hop artist to hold a place in the hall, behind Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, and N.W.A. (inducted just this past year). Furthermore, he would be the only solo rap act. While ‘Pac faces stiff competition, several factors may all but promise imminent induction: the collective mourning of the 20th anniversary of his death in September; the recent trailers released for his biopic All Eyez On Me; his favorable status in the Hall of Fame’s fan poll; and, of course, his overall sanctified status in the music world.

Nonetheless, even if Pac gets inducted this year, it’s not guaranteed that the Hall of Fame will continue to do justice by the genre. The Hall of Fame has had problems in the past with its insular nominating and voting committees. A large portion of members are far-removed from hip-hop culture. They’re generally grumpy old David Crosbys unaware that their favorite Bruce Hornsby jam was once sampled in a ‘Pac song. Future hip-hop nominations and inductions are likely to be based on populist bias instead of invested knowledge. Of course, this problem is not just limited to rap–progressive rock, jazz, punk, electronic, and pop inductions are also few and far between. No institution devoted to the chronicling of popular music can please everyone, and many important hip-hop acts may still be left cold in the coming years.

However, the institution has gradually made efforts in diversifying its members and selections. Over the past few years, unexpected names have made their way through and may solidify their rightful positions in the immediate future. The trend and message is clear: purists’ complaints remain irrelevant, and hip-hop deserves recognition alongside “traditional” rock and blues artists of lore. Here’s a look at some currently-eligible rap acts still absent from the hall and their chances at future induction.


Afrika Bambaataa


Status: Previously nominated in 2008

Chances for induction: Close to zilch. The recent slew of sexual assault and pedophilia allegations against the former Zulu Nation leader will probably dispel all future chances for nomination.


Boogie Down Productions


Status: Previously discussed, never nominated.

Chances for induction: Unlikely. BDP’s influence on hip-hop is monumental, but it’s hard to find evidence of major impact on broader rock culture (aside from Sublime, who recorded an ode to KRS-One on 40 Oz. to Freedom). Still, it is fun to imagine KRS-One breaking into a Mike Love-style rant at his hypothetical induction.


Cypress Hill


Status: Just became eligible

Chances for induction: Probable. Cypress Hill were a singularly unique act, one that bucked early conventions and sonically superseded genre lines. They enjoy enthusiastic followings from all types of music fans, especially on the West Coast. It’s hard to see the committee going gaga over the definitive stoner rap group, but a strong case could certainly be made.


De La Soul


Status: Previously discussed, never nominated.

Chances for induction: Probable. De La Soul presents an interesting case. While highly acclaimed in their time, they were never commercial darlings. Also, the absence of their pre-Grind Date catalogue from streaming services widens their generation gap. Nonetheless, De La Soul’s induction would fill in an important slot in the Hall of Fame’s acknowledgement of hip-hop history, serving as necessary representation to a sound much different from the hardcore—the socially-conscious, the gangsta, etc. Plus, “Me, Myself, and I” is included in the Hall of Fame’s list of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.


Eric B. and Rakim


Status: Previously nominated in 2012

Chances for induction: Unlikely for now. The iconic duo may be overlooked for a while in favor of more popular acts—the Beastie Boys beat them out in their last nomination cycle. However, Eric B. and Rakim’s sheer magnitude can’t be ignored. Plus, if reunion rumors hold true, a revitalization of modern interest in the group may spur action from the nominating committee.


Geto Boys


Status: Not yet discussed

Chances for induction: Unlikely. If anything, the Geto Boys’ music could be considered more controversial now than it was in the ’90s. Picture them performing “Mind of a Lunatic” at their induction ceremony.


Ice-T


Status: Not yet discussed

Chances for induction: Unlikely for now. Ice-T is still largely present in the public sphere, yet his artistry remains woefully underrated. Not only did he pioneer gangsta rap, but he also kickstarted trends in rap-rock and rap-metal with his ’90s outfit Body Count (a great or terrible thing depending on your perspective). Also, Ice-T is a fixture at the hall: he officially inducted Seymour Stein in the past decade, and his Rolling Stone cover displays on an exhibit wall. Committee members would do no harm in considering his work. Well, unless “Cop Killer” causes a stir once again.


Kurtis Blow


Status: Not yet discussed.

Chances for induction: Unlikely. “The Breaks” is essential as the first charted rap hit—and it is included in the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll—but there is little beyond his few best-known songs that provide strong justification for Kurtis Blow’s induction. Yes, he did collaborate with Bob Dylan, but “Street Rock” is not a proud moment in either of their careers.


LL Cool J


Status: Nominated three times without induction. Last nomination: 2014

Chances for induction: Extremely likely. LL Cool J is still well-known, even if he is currently more prolific as a TV star than a rapper. Still, classics like “Rock the Bells” and “Mama Said Knock You Out”—the latter included in the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll—make a case for LL as a charismatic rocker as well as a diverse and innovative artist. If Chuck D’s comments on the matter hold any weight, the Hall of Fame would do well to reconsider LL in the immediate future.


Salt-N-Pepa


Status: Not yet discussed

Chances for induction: Probable. The Hall of Fame has a well-discussed lack of female inductees, so inducting a female hip-hop group could exhibit a progressive stance. Also, “Let’s Talk About Sex” is included in the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.


Sugarhill Gang


Status: Previously discussed, never nominated.

Chances for induction: Low. “Rapper’s Delight” was epochal, but there is little beyond that single that would warrant induction for the group. Inducting the Sugarhill Gang solely for “Rapper’s Delight” could be comparable to the 2005 induction of Percy Sledge for “When a Man Loves a Woman,” a move which garnered its fair share of controversy.


Treacherous Three


Status: Previously discussed, never nominated

Chances for induction: Low. Outside of Kool Moe Dee, the members and work of the Treacherous Three are little-known to those who are not hip-hop heads or historians. The group’s significance should not be downplayed, but it is difficult to see committee members clamoring for their induction.


A Tribe Called Quest


Status: Just became eligible

Chances for induction: Extremely likely. A Tribe Called Quest are one of the most beloved groups of the ’90s, revered both in and out of rap fan circles. With the mourning over Phife Dawg’s recent death and the announcement of a new album, current interest around the group should hold firm.