KISS' Gene Simmons vs. N.W.A. Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Feud Gets Racial
A few months ago, while talking about the 40th anniversary of KISS's breakthrough album, Destroyer, Gene Simmons took a moment to shit all over rap music and hope for it's eventual demise:
"Rap will die. Next year, ten years from now, at some point, and then something else will come along. And all that is good and healthy. I am looking forward to the death of rap. I'm looking forward to music coming back to lyrics and melody, instead of just talking. A song, as far as I'm concerned, is by definition lyric and melody, or just melody."
At the time, I felt it was interesting that Simmons is yearning for the death of rap, because I vividly remembered him cashing in on the hip hop aesthetic while promoting his doomed 2004 solo album, Asshole. The album featured a cover of Prodigy's "Fire Starter" and while the music itself was not very much hip hop, the music video was clearly inspired by the hip hop culture of the time (although even then I remember thinking this was so tacky):
Simmons later tweeted out saying "Apparently pointing out that everything is cyclical — even music — is 'controversial.' People are very easily offended." He also went on to say he felt hip-hop has no place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame stating:
"You go on with your bad self and get more disco artists… A long time ago it was diluted. It's really backroom politics, like Boss Tweed. A few people decide what's in and what's not. And the masses just scratch their heads. You've got Grandmaster Flash in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame? RUN-DMC in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame? You're killing me! That doesn't mean those aren't good artists. But they don't play guitar. They sample and they talk. Not even sing!"
The spirit of rock and roll never seemed to me to be exclusive or elitist, in fact, it was just the opposite – rock and roll was for the people, for the working class and I feel that same spirit is was forged the creation of hip-hop. This was the music that came from the streets.
And, in fact, when N.W.A. were inducted into the Hall of Fame, DJ Ren acknowledged Simmons' statements by saying:
"I want to say to Mr. Gene Simmons that hip-hop is here forever. We're supposed to be here."
During his speech, Ice Cube added:
The question is, 'Are we rock 'n' roll?' 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. 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. Rock 'n' roll is not conforming to the people who came before you, but creating your own path in music and life. That is rock 'n' roll and that is us.
I couldn't have said it better myself. Ice nailed it. Rock and roll is not about guitars, it's about energy and spirit.
This obviously got back to Simmons, and he responded by asking if certain rock legends would be in the Hip Hop Hall of Fame:
— Gene Simmons (@genesimmons) April 9, 2016
As Uproxx points out in it's excellent editorial against Simmons, Hendrix would almost certainly be in a hip hop hall of fame in the wing for musicians who were sampled, as his music has been used in many hip hop tracks.
But, you know, I don't have to defend N.W.A., because Ice Cube is doing a good job of that himself, this time implying that rock music was created by black people and "reprinted" by white dudes like Simmons:
@genesimmons Who stole the soul? Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Chubby Checkers help invent Rock 'n' Roll. We invent it. Y'all reprint it.
— Ice Cube (@icecube) April 11, 2016
Look, for years, Simmons called the Rock hall of fame a joke because they wouldn't induct KISS and now, since he's inducted, he feels the need to let people know it should be an exclusive club. Personally, I think he's just taking it too seriously. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame means nothing. It is no indication of success or failure, it's merely an excuse for people to get dressed up once a year and jam out together and give some speeches. That's it. Everybody chill.