The time-honored tradition of controversy continued at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction at Barclays Center Friday night, as N.W.A. entered and took a stand for hip-hop.
“Mr. Gene Simmons, hip-hop is here forever,” declared MC Ren, responding to criticism from the Kiss frontman about the group’s induction. “Get used to it.”
Ice Cube explained that rock and roll is a spirit and connects all kinds of music. “Rock and roll is not conforming to the people who came before you, but creating your own path in music and in life,” he said. “That is rock and roll and that is us.”
But the controversies didn’t stop there. Even mild-mannered Steve Miller, inducted alone, tapped into a thorny issue, encouraging the Rock Hall “to become more inclusive of women,” drawing attention to this year’s all-male class.
Metallica’s Lars Ulrich inducted Deep Purple, celebrating the band’s “beautiful contradictions” and the influential opening riff of “Smoke on the Water.” He got wild applause for also celebrating guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, who lives in Port Jefferson. Blackmore did not attend the ceremony because he was not asked to perform with the current incarnation of the band.
“What he did with the guitar seemed not even feasible,” Ulrich said. “It’s like Blackmore was showing off, but only for himself. . . . He was beyond cool. It was impossible to look away.”
Cheap Trick, Chicago and Bert Berns also were inducted.
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The evening began with a bit of unity, as David Byrne, Kimbra and The Roots paid tribute to the late David Bowie with a funky version of “Fame.” And Sheryl Crow and Grace Potter teamed up for “New Kid in Town” as a tribute to the late Glenn Frey.
N.W.A. opted not to perform, even though they initially planned to. “I guess we really didn’t feel like we were supported enough to do the best show we could put on,” Ice Cube told The New York Times. “We wanted to do it on a whole other level, and that just couldn’t happen.”
In a statement, Rock Hall officials said they looked forward to N.W.A.’s induction, adding, “We are excited about delivering fans a great show and humbled to honor such deserving artists.”
Officials announced that the ceremony would be in New York again next year, when the inductees could include Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac.
HBO will air an edited version of this year’s ceremony on April 30.