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Ryan Buell | The Beat

The case for a hip-hop Hall of Fame

Published: Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Updated: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 11:02

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opened in Cleveland, Ohio in 1983, some 30 years after the term “rock ‘n’ roll” was coined and 20 years after the Beatles released “Please Please Me” (1963), making the genre a household name. Each year, half a dozen to a dozen nominees are inducted; there are categories for performers and non-performers, as well as for sidemen and lifetime achievement honors. Hip-hop, on the other hand, has no comparable collection or honor — a relatively new awards show on BET known as the “Hip Hop Awards” aside. With hip-hop’s ascendance to the cultural forefront and its storied archives, the genre deserves a hall of fame to honor its early legends.

The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” — generally recognized as the first commercially successful hip-hop song — was released in 1979, a full 35 years ago. The modern era of hip-hop emerged over 25 years ago with the rise of Public Enemy and the release of Eric B. & Rakim’s “Paid in Full” (1987). Indeed, hip-hop is as old now as rock and roll was when its hall of fame first opened its doors. It is inherently necessary for a music hall of fame to be removed from the era of its inductees in order to give legacies time to cement. Hip-hop is adequately distanced from its founding days to properly judge its influences and is comparably as mature as rock and roll was when the first members were inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This is a crucial qualification that is in favor of the creation of a hip-hop hall of fame.

I envision a hip-hop hall of fame that functions similarly to rock and roll’s. To select inductees, a committee would compile a list of nominees that would then be voted on. Inductees would have to be at least 25 years removed from their debut album, and there would be nominations for rappers, producers and non-performing contributors. New York City would be the obvious choice for the hall’s home, in homage to hip-hop’s roots.

Hip-hop, much like rock and roll before it, is as much a culture as it is a genre of music. From its roots in break dancing and graffiti, hip-hop has always encompassed people’s interactions with the music. Hip-hop’s culture has grown in tandem with its rise in popularity, even spawning other sub-cultures. Sneakers and the Jordan brand have developed a cult following, in large part due to their prominence in hip-hop culture. The internet has only accelerated this development. 24/7 blogs have allowed people to have constant access to new music. It’s easier than ever to have access to, and interact with, the cultural side of hip-hop. There are veritable communities that exist purely online and enable people from across all means of life to interact. Hip-hop transcends borders, race and age. It is a medium of interaction, as well as art for millions around the world. This all adds up to create a vibrant and influential cultural force.

Hip-hop is music, it is fashion, it is a following, it is a culture. And this is why it needs a hall of fame. It is important to honor the origins of the genre; it encourages younger generations to listen to and appreciate older bodies of work, and it enables a proper understanding of hip-hop’s present. A hall of fame would preserve the legacies of hip-hop’s forefathers and would be a confirmation of the genre’s preeminence. We are well overdue for a physical location dedicated to the memorial of a strong, proud music and culture. But with no signs of a hip-hop hall of fame coming anytime soon, it remains but a dream.

 

Ryan Buell is a sophomore who is majoring in psychology. He can be reached at Ryan.Buell@tufts.edu.

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