By Daniel Paiz
There are actually more Hip-Hop artists in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame then you might realize. The Beastie Boys (Class of 2012), Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five (Class of 2007), N.W.A (Class of 2016), Public Enemy (Class of 2013), Run DMC (Class of 2009), and Tupac Shakur (Class of 2017) were all members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame prior to 2020. Now that a new class has been selected, the Hip-Hop world can rejoice in a seventh act being added to the Hall of Fame: The Notorious B.I.G (Class of 2020, officially as of today).
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame might not be where you’d expect rappers to aim for, but the Hall is a bit more cognizant of the impact of rap on music overall. Unlike the Grammys, it seems the Hall of Fame realizes both the contemporary and historic impact of musicians; whether that’s a rap artist like Biggie, a pop artist like Whitney Houston (also a 2020 inductee), or a rock band like The Beatles, Metallica, Jimmy Hendrix, or any other classic band.
Why Biggie made it into the Hall of Fame
“Juicy”, “Hypnotize”, “Big Poppa”; these and countless more were essential listening in the 1990s. Biggie and Tupac continued to go back and forth, not only catching music listener’s ears but newspaper headlines as well. The music is what brought fans from across the musical spectrum dialing into an artist that had a sound few others had delivered before. It also wasn’t just posturizing for Biggie Smalls, it was narrating the life he led, how he focused on going from negative to positive (sorry, I couldn’t resist).
Having not been really old enough to watch the coastal beef unfold live on television, I can’t tell you what things were like in early 1990s America (I was gaining my musical tastes in the late 1990s). However, the fact that you can play a Biggie song today and both 40-somethings and 12 year old’s alike will know who’s playing speaks to the impact of one of Brooklyn’s finest. While Biggie Small’s legacy is often mucked up mainly due to the East Coast-West Coast rap beef of the 1990s, that should speak even more volumes about his music.
Narrating that environment to the applause of a nation was something not so readily heard then as it is now. Politicians had Congressional hearings about the dangers of Rap in the 1980s. The famous “Tipper stickers” championed by Tipper Gore and interest groups aligned with her came about as a response to fellow Hall of Fame members N.W.A and others. Rap’s popularity came with sometimes overly harsh criticism. Biggie kept recording and rhyming through all of that.
It’s good to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recognizing excellence in all of its forms, and not simply viewing it through the lens of who sold the most (*cough, cough* The Grammys *cough, cough*). Here’s to seeing who else in Rap joins this prestigious group of influential rappers.
P.S: How many other rappers influenced a NBA basketball jersey design? Case closed: