Does Rap belong in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

The question of rap and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame may be the most important issue the Hall needs to address in the coming years. Critics of the Hall have been wrestling with this issue but there doesn't seem to be a consensus. Rock fans are also split on whether artists like Eminem and Jay-Z belong in the same conversation with Nirvana and Guns N' Roses, as reflected by the voting on this site.

First, let's tackle the definition of "rock and roll", because many fans get hung up on the idea that artists who don't fit that description don't belong in the Rock Hall. Kurt Loder, the ageless MTV News icon, wrote on the subject in 2002:
What exactly is rock and roll? Having spent many years as a member of the Hall of Fame nominating committee (a position I no longer hold), I can tell you that endless hours have been devoted to this question, and it has never been definitively answered. Some critics — most notably the English writer Charlie Gillett, in his groundbreaking 1970 book, "The Sound of the City" — have argued that rock and roll is, if not "dead," at least historically complete, and now a part of the past.
If "rock and roll" as a genre is dead, that helps explain how bands like Black Sabbath (heavy metal), the Bee Gees (disco/soul) and the Ramones (punk) can get inducted without sounding like Chuck Berry. The list of subgenres in the Hall under the "rock" umbrella is incredibly diverse and has clearly expanded outside the strict definition of "rock and roll". So why should the Rock Hall draw the line at rap and hip hop?

The Rock Hall's primary function is "to recognize the contributions of those who have had a significant impact on the evolution, development and perpetuation of rock and roll." There is no question that hip hop has heavily influenced today's rock artists -- Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against the Machine, and countless others combine rap and rock seamlessly. Turntables and sampling have their roots in early rap, but are now ubiquitous in popular music. You can't understand popular music from the last 20 years without hip hop. That needs to be documented in the Hall of Fame.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation (who nominates the artists) has shown a recent willingness to open their doors to rap by nominating Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five in 2005 and 2006, though they didn't receive enough votes to get inducted. The Rock Hall Museum has also hosted speakers like Chuck D and held exhibits devoted to hip hop. After all, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is also an active museum and they want to expand their visitors to hip hop fans.

This question will certainly be answered definitively in the next couple of years when rappers like the Beastie Boys, Run DMC, LL Cool J, and Public Enemy all become eligible for induction.

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