Rappers in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: A Complete History
Since 1986, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has been honoring artists in the rock, blues, soul and even country music genres. Since 2007, the museum has been adding hip-hop artists to their prestigious Hall of Fame inductions.
Currently, only six hip-hop acts have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They are Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, N.W.A and Tupac Shakur.
In 2007, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five became the first rappers to be inducted into the Hall. The museum couldn't have made a better first choice. The South Bronx group are the embodiment of hip-hop culture. Two years later, Run-DMC, the trio brought hip-hop to the suburbs thanks to their rap-rock version of Aerosmith's "Walk This Way," was ushered in.
Then came the Beastie Boys in 2012. The group started out as a punk act, then moved to rap, where they incorporated classic rock samples into their recordings to great commercial success. Public Enemy, who joined the next year, was another great induction. They have always maintained a rock mentality in their music but also brought a sense of social activism to rap as well.
West Coast rap icons N.W.A proved to be the Hall's most controversial inductees. But their in-your-face rhymes and powerful musicality certainly influenced rock and vice versa. Finally, 2Pac was posthumously inducted in 2017. In addition to being a gifted rapper, his work ethic and legendary rap status made him a worthy honoree.
In honor of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Boombox decided to take a look back at all the rap HoF honorees. Check out videos of their acceptance speeches and exciting performances below.
2007: Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five become the first rap inductees
In 2007, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious were the first rap act to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The South Bronx group are the pioneers of early rap with their socially-conscious songs like “The Message” and the anti-cocaine track “White Lines." Meanwhile, Grandmaster Flash would become a visionary behind the turntables with his skills at break-beating.
At the 2007 induction ceremony, Jay-Z -- a definite future Hall candidate -- ushered in Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and praised them for their innovation in rap music.
"Rock played a huge part in what we do," said Grandmaster Flash during his acceptance speech. "It's been an incredible trip to do what I do on the turntables with five incredible vocalists - the Furious Five."
Melle Mel added, "To all of the industry people that have control of what we called hip-hop, I would like the people to put more of an effort to make hip-hop the culture of music that it was instead of the culture of violence that it is right now."
For their performance, the iconic rap group took audiences on a nostalgic trip of popular breakbeats before ending their performance with "The Message."
Watch Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's Induction With Jay-Z
2009: The Kings of Rock honored by Eminem
If there could be only rap group that deserves to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it would be Run-DMC. The legendary Queens group successfully merged rock and rap together with their classic 1985 song “Walk This Way” (featuring Aerosmith), which sparked the sub-genre called rap-rock. Not only that, Run-DMC have had many firsts in the rap game including in business with being the first rap group to snag a sneaker endorsement deal.
At the 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Eminem was tapped to usher Joseph "Run" Simmons, Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels and the late Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell into the HoF. The Detroit rhymer cited them as his musical heroes.
"Two turntables and a microphone, that's all it took to change the world," he said (via MTV News). "Three kings from Queens made rap music in the b-boy stance a global phenomenon."
"And 25 years later, man, here we are," he continued. "They didn't take no for an answer, much the same way as they didn't give up when much of the world refused to recognize rap as real music. They were the first rock stars of rap. They were the first movie stars of rap. They were the first rap group played on MTV...they were the baddest of the bad, the coolest of the cool. Two turntables and a microphone."
Watch Run-DMC's Induction With Eminem
2012: The Beastie Boys salute Adam "MCA" Yauch
In April 2012, the Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by fellow Def Jam artist LL Cool J. The rap veteran thanked the trio for bringing their inventive style and wit to hip-hop and for discovering a 16-year-old rap dynamo.
“The reason I’m here tonight and the reason this was so important to me is because if it wasn’t for the Beastie Boys [who] actually played my demo tape for Rick Rubin in the NYU dormitory, I wouldn't have gotten my big break,” said LL.
Beastie Boys Michael "Mike D" Diamond and Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz appeared at the ceremony sans Adam "MCA" Yauch who was battling cancer at the time. Sadly, MCA would succumb to the disease a month later.
“I’d like to dedicate this to my brothers Adam and Mike,” he wrote in a letter via Rolling Stone. “They walked the globe with me. It’s also for anyone who has ever been touched by our band. This induction is as much ours as it is yours.”
For their musical tribute, rappers Black Thought, Kid Rock and Travie, along with the Roots band and DJ Mixmaster Mike on the turntables, performed an exhilarating melody of Beastie Boys tracks including "No Sleep Til Brooklyn," "So What Cha Want" and "Sabotage."
Watch the Beastie Boys' Induction With LL Cool J
2013: Public Enemy bring the noise
Spike Lee and Harry Belafonte did the honors of ushering Public Enemy into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The iconic rap group - Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Professor Griff and Terminator X - were being saluted for their longevity as well as for their activism in hip-hop.
“Mr. Belafonte had said that activists are the gatekeepers of truth and civilization’s radical voice. We have coined our own term for what we do in this same spirit - raptivism,” said Chuck D during his acceptance speech. "This award is just not ours, we come from DJ culture. A culture that values bringing the noise from diverse message from Minister Louis Farrakhan to Anthrax."
"Tonight what we are being honored for is just not the longevity but for skill at our craft and our tenure as a group and individuals within," he continued. "Rap music and hip-hop at his best does the right thing."
Afterward, they bum-rushed the stage and delivered a rousing performance of their anthemic bangers "Rebel Without Pause" and "Fight the Power."
Watch Public Enemy's Induction With Spike Lee and Harry Belafonte
2016: N.W.A proudly get inducted amid controversy
N.W.A became a hot-button topic on social media following their announcement that they would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016. Kiss bassist Gene Simmons was an outspoken critic of their induction, stating that groups like N.W.A and other rap artists were "not rock 'n' roll enough" to be inducted. At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, N.W.A took Simmons to task for his remarks.
"The question is, 'Are we rock 'n' roll?'" Ice Cube asked during his acceptance speech. "And I say -- you goddamn right we rock 'n' roll."
"Rock 'n' roll is not an instrument. It's not even a style of music," he continued. "It's a spirit that's been going on since the blues, jazz, bebop, soul, rock 'n' roll, R&B, heavy metal, punk rock, and yes, hip-hop."
Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar ushered the group into the Hall. Sadly, N.W.A didn't perform at the event due to technical difficulties beyond their control.
Watch N.W.A.'s Induction With Kendrick Lamar
2017: Snoop Dogg inducts Tupac Shakur
Another small controversy happened when Tupac Shakur was selected to be immortalized in 2017. Chuck D felt it was too soon to honor the late rapper and suggested that LL Cool J would have been a better candidate. The Queens rapper was first nominated for induction back in 2010. LL appeared on the nomination ballot again in 2011 but didn't get selected.
Nevertheless, 2Pac was posthumously inducted into the HoF. Fellow rapper and former Death Row artist Snoop Dogg reflected fondly on his friend who he called "his homeboy."
"To be human is to be many things at once, strong and vulnerable, hardheaded and intellectual, courageous and afraid, revolutionary and...oh yeah, don’t get it fucked up, gangsta," he said. "To me, Tupac was first and foremost, the homeboy. We shared a lot in common. In a way, our journeys started together."
"'Pac’s a part of history for a reason, because he made history," he added. "He’s hip-hop history, He’s American history."
For his musical tribute, Grammy Award-winning pianist Alicia Keys performed a medley of 2Pac's hits including "I Ain't Mad at Cha" and "Dear Mama." Then Snoop, YG, Treach and T.I. came out and rapped 'Pac's classic songs "Gangsta Party," "Hail Mary" and "Keep Ya Head Up," respectively.
Watch Tupac Shakur's Induction With Snoop Dogg and Alicia Keys