In recent years, there has been controversy whether or not rap music deserves to be recognized in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. This debate began in 2009 when Run-DMC was inducted into the Hall, and most recently discussed last year when NWA was inducted. Currently, Tupac is a nominee for induction in 2017. Unsurprisingly, there are many people— fans and critics alike— who disapprove of rap having any place in Cleveland. I disagree with these people, and think that Run-DMC, NWA, and Tupac have every right to be recognized alongside The Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin. Just hear me out…
Rap Music Tells a StorySome of the most distinctive features about rock music are the lyrics and instrumentals that tell a story. Some of the most iconic rock songs have been about social protests, or something going on in the artist’s personal life. Although the same can’t be said about most other genres of music, it can be said about rap. In fact, rap started in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s as a vehicle for African-American communities in New York to express their social situation and culture.
Rock Needs DiversityAs great as our genre is, it has one huge problem: it’s extremely white. This is ironic, considering the founding fathers of rock and roll, such as Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Bo Diddley were African-American. Not only is this ironic, it goes against the rock culture of inclusion, teamwork, and good vibes. Our genre would benefit by going back to its roots by accepting, celebrating, and including the contributions of music from different genres and culture.
Rap Has Sub-genres
You can tell a genre is diverse when different artists fall into subgenres. For rap, the two main sub-genres are East Coast and West Coast hip-hop/rap. East Coast rap primarily started in cities like New York and Philadelphia from artists like Grandmaster Flash and LL Cool J. This genre was characterized by aspects such as mc-ing, breakdancing, and graffiti. More than anything, East Coast rap brought together disenfranchised African-Americans on the East Coast. East Coast rap soon spread to the West Coast, where the music and culture centered around gang life and police brutality. These sub-genres show how diverse and complicated the music itself is, as well as how necessary a museum is to further educate the public about its history.
Rap Music has Produced Some of the Greatest Protest Music in HistoryOne of the hallmarks of rock and roll music is songs about social unrest and protests. From Neil Young’s “Ohio,” to Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War,” all the way up to Green Day’s “Holiday,” rock music has brought social unrest and protest to life. For rap artists, protest songs describe the everyday life of these artists, who often face racial discrimination and police brutality. Perhaps the most famous of these songs are NWA’s “F*** the Police,” Tupac’s “Keep Ya Head Up,” and Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power”. Music that brings to life the reality, injustices, and hardships of so many Americans deserves to be formally recognized.
Rock and Rap Are a Great CombinationHere’s a rule of thumb; if you can make a good song by combining two different genres, the two genres are more alike than they are different. Another rule; if two artists from different genres are working and recording together, they probably have mutual respect for one another and appreciate the other’s music. This can be seen with rock and rap through the numerous collaborations throughout the years, which took off in 1986 when Run-DMC and Aerosmith recorded “Walk This Way” together. In addition, there has been a rise of rock-rap crossover bands, most notably Rage Against the Machine and Prophets of Rage. If there was any doubt rock and rap can coexist, Tom Morello certainly erased that doubt.
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