NEW YORK: Gangsta rap pioneers N.W.A. called their success a lesson for youth as they entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Friday, but the institution came under blistering criticism from fellow honoree Steve Miller.
Hard rockers Deep Purple and Midwestern chart-toppers Chicago and Cheap Trick were also inducted in a Brooklyn gala after an annual vote by music industry insiders.
N.W.A., whose dark tales from the streets of Compton, California defined gangsta rap, shocked much of white America in 1988 with “Fuck Tha Police,” a no-holds-barred indictment of officers’ treatment of young African Americans.
The Hall of Fame turned into a rare N.W.A. reunion as original member Dr. Dre, who went on to become a multimillionaire executive at Apple, took the stage in a black suit and tie next to bandmate Ice Cube in his trademark thick shades and cap.
“Back then, there were a lot of people against us and had problems with what we were saying,” said Dr. Dre, noting that even the band’s full name, Niggaz Wit Attitudes, caused controversy. “But this is proof to all the kids out there growing up in places similar to Compton that anything is possible.”
Ice Cube, who has gone on to a major career as a solo rapper and actor, dismissed criticism, most recently from Gene Simmons of Kiss, that hip-hop did not belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“Rock and roll is not an instrument, rock and roll is not even a style of music. Rock and roll is a spirit,” Ice Cube said, adding that it encompassed genres from jazz to punk. “Rock and roll is not conforming to the people who came before you, but creating your own path in music and in life.”
N.W.A., the first West Coast rappers in the Hall of Fame, had been nominated four times but won the nod shortly after a Hollywood biopic on the group, “Straight Outta Compton.”
Sharp rebuke from Miller
N.W.A. did not perform, citing logistical issues.
The Hall of Fame, which is based in Cleveland, held the induction at the Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn, with HBO set to broadcast the show on April 30.
While N.W.A. politely posed for pictures alongside young rap star Kendrick Lamar, who introduced them, fellow honoree Miller did not mince words.
Miller told reporters that the entire show nearly collapsed and accused the Hall of Fame of trying to “steal” the rights to use footage and of demanding that anyone with him besides his wife pay $10,000 for a ticket.
“The whole process needs to be changed from top to bottom,” said Miller, who described the event as “so unpleasant.”
“They need to get their legal work straight, they need to respect the artists they say they’re honoring, which they don’t,” he told reporters after performing a medley of songs including his 1973 hit “The Joker.”
Miller, born in Wisconsin where he learned guitar under the legendary Les Paul, emerged in the cultural mix of 1960s San Francisco as he blended jazz and blues with roots Americana.
He still plays regularly at age 72 and guides the musical instrument collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Hard rock trinity complete
With Deep Purple, all three bands considered the trinity of British hard rock in the 1970s are in the Hall of Fame after Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath.
The band led by Ian Gillan turned up the volume for hits including “Highway Star,” “Hush” and “Smoke on the Water,” whose bluesy but heavy opening is among the most famous in rock.
But guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, who wrote the riff, did not show up, saying the current lineup had made him unwelcome.
Drummer Ian Paice described Blackmore as a “singular animal,” saying he might have turned up at the last minute.
David Coverdale, a former Deep Purple singer who went on to lead Whitesnake, called Blackmore’s absence “a big disappointment” and said he emailed him several days ago in a last-ditch attempt to persuade him.
Deep Purple was introduced by Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, who said his life was transformed by seeing the hard rockers play his native Copenhagen when he was nine.
Donning a blazer in the color of the band’s name, Ulrich said Deep Purple both played “with raw intensity” as if by themselves yet “projected a thousand-yard deep stare into the bowels of the arena.”
Chicago, who adapted the jazz of the band’s namesake town to become soft-rock giants, brought out their celebrated horn section but played without former singer Peter Cetera, who also blamed organizers.
But Cheap Trick, the hard-working heartland rockers who became a surprise sensation in Japan, reunited on stage with drummer Bun E. Carlos who only a few years ago was suing his bandmates.
“Who knew that ‘I want you to want me’ would become such a defining phrase for a rock band from Rockford, Illinois?” singer Robin Zander said of Cheap Trick’s famous song. “Seems like such a stupid phrase. But it works, I guess.” AFP