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5 Hip-Hop Acts Who Belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

From De La Soul to Big Daddy Kane, these are the hip-hop legends who deserve Hall of Fame status.
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Tupac was announced today as one of 19 nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If successful, he’ll become just the sixth hip-hop act to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, joining Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, Run-D.M.C., Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and N.W.A.

Despite non-rock acts like Miles Davis, Marvin Gaye and ABBA all claiming a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the recent addition of rap music hasn’t sat well with some of the old guard of rock music. Earlier this year, KISS frontman Gene Simmons took issue with N.W.A’s induction and said he was “looking forward to the death of rap.”

We can’t wait to see what sort of responses Tupac’s nomination produces, but as MC Ren said during N.W.A’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony, “hip-hop is here forever. Get used to it.”

With that said, here are five more hip-hop acts who we believe belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — alongside Tupac, hopefully.

(Note: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame states that “an individual artist or band must have released its first single or album at least 25 years prior to the year of nomination,” so we’re working strictly from 1991 and earlier).

A Tribe Called Quest

A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory turned 25 this year, so we’re pretty shocked — but not necessarily surprised — to not see them included among this year’s Hall of Fame nominees. From their 1990 debut People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm to 93’s Midnight Marauders, Q-Tip, Phife Dawg and Ali Shaheed Muhammad (and let’s not forget Jarobi) had one of the tightest album runs of all time and helped usher in the age of Afrocentric enlightenment. Relationships may have soured in later years, but Tribe’s creative spirit continues to inspire generations of cool weirdos who don’t quite fit the mold — from Pharrell and Mos Def to Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar. It’s just a shame that when, not if, ATCQ finally get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Phife Dawg won’t be alive to enjoy it.

LL Cool J

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Two of the five current hip-hop Hall of Famers — Beastie Boys and Public Enemy — were both signed to Def Jam during their heyday, but the label wouldn’t be what it is (or at least was) without LL Cool J. At just 17 years old, the kid from Queens struck gold (literally) with his debut album, Radio, and turned Def Jam from an NYU dorm project into one of the hottest rap labels around. LL’s fiery delivery and ladies man charm laid the blueprint for his career — and many others — to come, while Rick Rubin’s stripped-down (or “reduced”) production was as Rock ’n’ Roll as anything in hip-hop at the time. He may be better known for his movies or muscles these days, but there’s no denying LL Cool J’s place in hip-hop history.

De La Soul

It’s difficult to praise A Tribe Called Quest for cultivating a new kind of hip-hop without talking about De La Soul. The Long Island trio released their game-changing debut, 3 Feet High and Rising, just a year before Tribe’s, but they arrived in hip-hop at a very different time. While N.W.A and Public Enemy armed hip-hop with militant politics, De La disarmed everyone with their peaceful and playful personalities. As founding members of the Native Tongues collective alongside the Jungle Brothers and A Tribe Called Quest, Dave, Pos and Mase introduced a deeper sense of self — and heritage — for many hip-hop fans. Having made a return with their ninth album this year, De La Soul is definitely not dead.

Eric B. & Rakim

It’s one thing to change the sound, style or sensibilities of hip-hop, but to change the actual art of rapping is truly innovative, and that’s exactly what Rakim did. In the early ’80s, rap music was, for the most part, pretty basic: unsophisticated flows, call and response, and lots and lots of shouting. But when Paid In Full dropped in 1987, Rakim introduced a whole new level of creativity to the craft. His meticulous rhyme schemes have been deconstructed to death, and yet it never fails to amaze. As Shea Serrano wrote in The Rap Year Book, “every style of rapping that has occurred since 1987 and will ever occur can be traced back to when Eric B. and Rakim released Pain In Full.”

Big Daddy Kane

Lyrics, charisma, hit records and a classic album or two; Big Daddy Kane is the definition of a complete emcee. After earning a rep in the battle rap scene, the Brooklyn native polished up his raw skills and enjoyed both commercial and critical success with his first two albums, Long Live the Kane and It’s a Big Daddy Thing, going Gold with the latter. Girls wanted to fuck him and men wanted to rap like him; Big Daddy Kane personified style and substance like few others. It’s no coincidence that Eminem, Pusha T and Kool G Rap all name Big Daddy Kane as one of their favorite rappers of all time.

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By Andy James. You can follow him on Twitter.

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