The 2017 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees were announced this week. Potential inductees are Bad Brains, The Cars, Chaka Khan, Chic, Depeche Mode, Electric Light Orchestra, J. Geils Band, Jane’s Addiction, Janet Jackson, Joan Baez, Joe Tex, Journey, Kraftwerk, MC5, Pearl Jam, Steppenwolf, Yes, The Zombies and Tupac Shakur. The most polarizing artist on the list is 2Pac. So we answer the question, does 2Pac belong in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?
If Tupac Shakur is not a first ballot Rock and Roll Hall of Famer then maybe it’s time to throw the whole building into Lake Erie. No, but really. If you let Stevie Wonder, Johnny Cash, Parliament-Funkadelic, and ABBA into the hall, then, well, 2Pac ABSOLUTELY belongs there, too. Denying rap icon 2Pac entry into the hall because you want to limiting rock and roll to a “sound” is asinine. Ever since, well, inaugural Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Ray Charles released his seminal album Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music in 1962, the idea that rock and roll was jazz, folk and blues-derived pop music aimed at a teenage demographic has honestly ceased to exist. Thus, “rock and roll,” since well, 1962, has evolved into being more a feeling that’s best described as revolution-as-music occurring at the edge of sociopolitical change. Thus, more than arguably any artist that ever lived, 2Pac is possibly the most deserving Rock and Roll Hall of Famer EVER. How many times can the hall say that they inducted someone who is the following:
- the son of a Black Panther turned rapper/actor/activist
- an artist who survived multiple attempts on his life
- a creative who evolved an genre of music via an epic feud with the Notorious B.I.G., an artist who was his creative equal
- a creative who died in part because of said feud that evolved said genre of music
- an artist who’s music touched funk, R & B, pop, jazz, politics, social theory and deplorable misogyny in equal measure
Again, to be frank, if the Hall of Fame does not make 2Pac a first-ballot member, then it’s time to shove the entire structure into Lake Erie.
There’s also a not-so-latent age-ism and complete unawareness by old rock people of the art of all things rock sampling that’s always made hip-hop culture resonant that’s at play when you deny rappers entry into the Hall of Fame. How someone can allow Chuck Berry and James Brown entry into the hall but get up in arms when Public Enemy and NWA storm the gates is frustrating. Minimally, let’s get two things straight. Public Enemy sampled James Brown’s music, and NWA’s “Fuck The Police” is basically a modern age answer to James questioning and chastising the failed 1972-era civil rights movement for “Talkin’ Loud and Sayin’ Nothing.”
However, Pac took what Public Enemy, NWA, James Brown AND Chuck Berry did, and improved upon the concept. 2Pac’s most potent pop age was between 1993-1996. In this era, he not-so-arguably did what it took both of those aforementioned groups two decades combined to accomplish. As well, he fully modernized the work of what artists like James Brown and Chuck Berry did three decades prior to his creative height. Ever listened to Chuck’s “My Ding-A-Ling?” Yes, it’s not exactly socially quotable , but Berry’s penis prose certainly packs the same kind of shock, awe and lack of social grace as Pac saying “you claim to be a player, but I fucked your wife,” on his incendiary B-side and Biggie-baiting dis track “Hit Em Up.”
In fact, to discuss this even further and show via the fact that numbers never lie, 2Pac only had 15 official singles in his career as a living artist, 15 songs as compared to the four aforementioned performers/groups releasing a total of 272 songs. 2Pac’s 15 songs amassed the same level of cultural impact with 6% of the output of four established Hall of Fame level performers.
To break it down in an ultimate sense, bananas are to peanut butter in the same way rap is to rock and roll. Like jelly, the genres of funk, soul, pop, and dance have guitars, live instrumentation and iconic lead singers that give it a direct connective tie to rock’s gooey goodness-as-metaphorical-peanut-laden core. However, though seemingly not the most obvious of connections, rap’s metaphorical fruit relationship to all things jelly, when added to the very same peanut butter, is undeniably delicious and changes the whole peanut butter-and-jelly-only conversation for the better.
In this peanut butter-and-other best fruit conversation, 2Pac should be regarded as rap’s top banana, and thus an immediate hall of famer.
If that doesn’t happen, let this fascist-style age-ist structure sink into the depths of Lake Erie. Because fascism and age-ism are bad, and rock and roll, when understood as a vibe, is amazing, transcendent, and forever.