Tuesday, April 12, 2016

What is "rock 'n' roll"?

So, here's an idiotic story.

Gene Simmons has been an anti-hip-hop tear of late. How much is inspired by his anti-hip-hop contemplation and how much is brought on by reporters trying to goad a good clickbait headline out of the walking clickbait headline, I have no idea.

This has most recently been an issue with the induction of hip-hop acts into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as much talk as this thing gets, you'd think it wasn't stupid. Anyway, the illustrious Mr. Simmons finds this inappropriate, which is his right.

However, the members of N.W.A., the most recent hip-hop act inducted, took issue with this, to no one's surprise.

Ice Cube said, "Are we rock & roll? I say, 'You goddamn right, we rock & roll.' Rock & roll is not an instrument; rock & roll is not even a style of music. Rock & roll is a spirit. It's a spirit. It's been going since the blues, jazz, bebop, soul, R&B, rock & roll, heavy metal, punk rock and yes, hip-hop. … Rock & roll is not conforming to the people who came before you, but creating your own path in music and in life. That is rock & roll, and that is us."

That makes sense to me.

Simmons responded with a tweet, "Respectfully-- let me know when @JimiHendrix gets into the hip hop hall of fame. Then youll have a point. @icecube"

This sounds solid on the surface, but falls apart quickly upon the least examination.

We all know "rock 'n' roll" is the big tent. Kiss isn't in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, but Carl Perkins is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Which part of that doesn't make sense? The Rolling Stones aren't in the Doo Wop Hall of Fame, but The Coasters are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Is there something wrong there? The Beatles aren't in the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame, but Ray Charles is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Who disagrees with that?

Perhaps all of these are insane outrages to Mr. Simmons, and he has merely been sitting on his hands over them and this hip-hop thing is just the last straw that sent him over the edge. What the fuck do I know?

Unless he's willing to make a considered argument in which he can define how his opinion makes sense in light of those things, how this differs from the examples I gave or why those examples are also wrong, then he's going to continue to earn headlines like Dumb Gene Simmons won’t shut up about the dumb Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I assume he's ok with that. He's get approval from a large enough group of sycophantic fans, who are in a sweet spot of age for this argument. Too old to have a high proportion of hip-hop fans and too young to have a perspective on the history of rock 'n' roll that includes the kinds of crossover I referred to. Not to mention, he'll be the subject of many more clickbait headlines, which keeps his name in the public eye. I assume he's fine with that. I find that persona to be disappointing, but it's not the first thing he's done to disappoint me as a fan, and it will most likely not be the last.

It all is what it is.

Can I go back to not talking about the goddamn Rock and Roll Hall of Fame please?

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