With its induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this week, Run DMC joined Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five as the only hip hop groups to earn the distinction. The honor led many to call for the creation of a Hip Hop Hall of Fame to better recognize leading contributors to the genre. It also led us to ask ourselves: If a Hip Hop Hall of Fame were created today, who would be our first five inductees? HipHopLaw.com contributors andré douglas pond cummings, Nick J. Sciullo and Brian Welch list their nominees.
andré douglas pond cummings: The true pioneers in hip hop that should be recognized as the original creators of the movement are DJs Afrika Bambaatta and DJ Kool Herc. While I recognize the important contributions of Run DMC in taking hip hop nationwide and mainstream, if I were to select a top five that deserved induction into a Hall of Fame for making an influential and continuing contribution to the genre, I would have to select:
1) Chuck D and Public Enemy: In my view, Public Enemy seized the microphone in the late 1980s and blindsided America with political messages that resonated with urban youth and penetrated suburbia. "Fight the Power," "Don't Believe the Hype," "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" and "911 is a Joke" served up a genuine critique of U.S. politics that caused fear in the hearts of the traditional majority.
2) Tupac Shakur: Lyrically brilliant, confoundingly contradictory and ultimately fearless, Tupac Shakur became the first hip hop magnate. Movie star, hip hop artist and superstar. Mere mention of "Dear Mama," "All Eyes on Me" and California Love" amongst dozens of others immediately sets heads to nodding. He famously said "I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world."
3) KRS One and Boogie Down Productions: KRS One foresaw and believed that he could be a teacher to the masses. His messages following the death of Scott LaRock were ones designed to uplift the hip hop nation. "Edutainment" released in 1991 was a tour de force, including the unforgettable "Love's Gonna Getcha."
4) Ice Cube, Eazy E, Dr. Dre and N.W.A: When N.W.A. burst upon the scene in the late 1980s, the group was furiously criticized for promoting the "gangsta" lifestyle and image. While much of what N.W.A. rapped about was violent and misogynistic, the counter culture messages that described life in American ghettos was real and stark. "F**k the Police," "100 Miles and Runnin'," "Gangsta Gangsta" and "Straight Outta Compton" stunned America and caused the FBI and Tipper Gore to take
5) Ice-T: Perhaps the originator of "gangsta rap," Ice-T continued the tradition of narrative storytelling through his rhymes. "6 in the Morning" served notice and "Cop Killer" drew national outrage. Today, Ice-T playing a police officer on "Law and Order: SVU" raises the interesting question as to whether commodification of the genre impacts the counter culture messages that seemed so revolutionary twenty years ago.
Nick J. Sciullo: My list focuses on the underdogs as opposed to the obvious (Biggie, Common, KRS-One, Tupac, etc.) In no particular order and with some explanation:
1) Black Thought – The Roots front man has been a loud socially conscious presence for years. The fact that he does all this over a full musical ensemble is all that much more impressive.
2) Kool G Rap – Although often forgotten in discussions of 80’s hip hop and largely ignored in the gangsta rap discourse, Kool G Rap has been spittin’ fire for years. He put hardcore hip-hop on the map. For a more modern look at this artist, check out The Giancana Story.
3) Immortal Technique – If you didn’t think hard hip-hop and socially conscious, message-centered hip hop could coexist, then you haven’t listened to Immortal Technique. His delivery and lyrics combine to form a compelling political action.
4) Lord Have Mercy – This former member of Busta Rhymes' Flipmode squad has a delivery that is nothing but unique. He combines the power of DMX with the freestyle feel of Wu-Tang Clan. He’s made memorable appearances on Busta Rhymes tracks, especially on Busta’s first album The Coming, on Flipmode Squad’s The Imperial, and also on MOP’s Warriorz. If you haven’t listened, you should.
5) Wyclef Jean – I’m a Wyclef fan, but I don’t choose him because I’m a fan. Wyclef revolutionized hip-hop by including international rhythms in his music. He’s worked with international artists like Muzion, Celia Cruz, and Aadesh Shrivastava. He brought attention to the plight of Haiti and Haitian-Americans and delivered memorable songs like Gone ‘Til November, Slow Down, President, and Next Generation.
Brian Welch: In the interest of geographic diversity, and with a disclaimer of my relative youth (I wasn’t alive when Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five released “The Message”), I present my five nominees:
1) Run DMC: Okay, so their spot in the Hall is a given. But who brought hip hop to the fore more fully than DJ Run, DMC, and the late JamMaster Jay? I challenge you to find someone, anyone, who hasn’t heard of the trio from Hollis, Queens.
2) Ice Cube: In a toss up between Cube and Dre, I choose O’Shea. Sure, no album was more eye-opening than The Chronic, but the former N.W.A. catalyst turned breakout star wins on longevity. Mr. Jackson owned the 1990s with legendary albums (The Predator, Lethal Injection) and hit movies (Boyz n the Hood, Friday).
3) Jay-Z: Quick, name your favorite Jay-Z tracks. If you’re still counting five minutes from now, you’re not alone. His catalog is ridiculous. His business acumen is unsurpassed in the music industry. What other rapper could announce a joint partnership with perfume manufacturer Elizabeth Arden and not lose a drop of credibility?
4) The Roots: Can I offer an opinion? Black Thought is the best rapper alive. Listen to his angst and paranoia on the Bush-era magnum opus “Game Theory”. Listen to him combine seething criticism and unbridled optimism on the lost-on-some “Rising Down”. And is there a better drummer than ?uestlove? No group puts together more complete albums, from the first track to the last.
5) OutKast: I’ll admit, their last two albums were awful. But damn, were their first four albums not the sickest syntheses of sounds you’ve ever heard? They put Atlanta, and the entire South, on the hip hop map.
Who would be your first five?