(May 14, 2021). Make no mistake, Jay-Z belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Nothing in this article will argue otherwise.
The iconic rapper’s pending induction was made official with Wednesday’s (May 12) announcement of the new RRHOF Class of 2021, which will include perhaps the most diverse group of new members in the institution’s 35-year history.
Jay-Z – born 51 years ago as Shawn Carter – is being inducted in his first year of eligibility (25 years after his first recording), and rightfully so. He has an indisputable legacy, not only in the world of hip-hop, but in the music industry in general.
His very first album (1996’s Reasonable Doubt) was an instant classic – as judged by almost every hip-hop head who experienced it back in the day – and his fourteen No. 1 albums since then (many of which are also considered classics) are more number ones than any other artist, rapper or otherwise, besides the Beatles.
That’s some rarified air for any artist to be breathing. Plus it was mighty prescient of Jay who, as a guest artist on fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Fame rapper The Notorious B.I.G.’s 1997 song “I Love The Dough,” boasted of “playing the charts like the Beatles,” even before getting his first No. 1.
And now the Brooklyn native becomes only the third solo rapper – and the eighth hip-hop act overall – to be inducted into the RRHOF.
But the timeliness of Jay-Z’s induction on his first-eligible ballot only highlights the untimely entry of some of his 2021 classmates, namely two iconic women of rock who were already in the Hall but only by virtue of collaborative efforts with their late ex-husbands. Incredibly, they are just now being recognized as solo performers in their own rights.
First there’s legendary singer/songwriter Carole King, easily one of the most prolific artists in rock-and-roll history.
King was first recognized by the Rock Hall in 1990 for her songwriting talents when she was inducted along with her former writing partner and late ex-husband Gerry Goffin. Only now is she being recognized for her work as a solo performer, more than a quarter century after first becoming eligible (in 1995 by virtue of her debut album, 1970’s Writer).
Her landmark 1971 sophomore album Tapestry celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this year. Its undeniable place in history cannot be overstated. The songs “It’s Too Late,” “I Feel The Earth Move,” “So Far Away, “Where You Lead” and “You’ve Got A Friend” speak for themselves. By 1971’s end, Tapestry would spend an incredible 15 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and become one of the biggest-selling albums of all time.
Taken alone, Tapestry could singlehandedly have been enough to secure a RRHOF nod for King in the Performers category. However, the “One Fine Day” singer/songwriter has a formidable album and song catalogue that only makes the case for her earlier entry that much stronger.
King’s next five albums after Tapestry all reached the top 10 (including two more No. 1s) and all were certified gold or platinum. They included classic gems like “Sweet Seasons,” “Nightengale,” “Been to Canaan,” and this blogger’s personal fave, “Jazzman.”
And that was all by 1976!
The hits for King became fewer and further between after that, but her legacy was already pretty well intact by then. It seemed an early RRHOF nod in the Performers category was a foregone conclusion for someone of her enormous stature.
In a similar vein, rock legend Tina Turner was already in the RRHOF but – like King – only as a co-entrant with her late ex-husband Ike Turner.
That joint induction happened in 1991, just six years after the duo first became eligible by virtue of their debut professional recording in 1960 (the single “A Fool In Love”).
Tina, whose career with Ike was certainly no cakewalk, began recording solo albums as far back as 1974, two years before she left the Ike & Tina Turner Review and some ten years before her famous comeback with the landmark album Private Dancer. That would have made her technically eligible for solo induction as far back as 1999, or 25 years after that first solo album – Tina Turns the Country On! – in ‘74.
Tina’s legendary 1984 comeback and her late-career ascension to superstardom remains unparalleled. Few artists can claim sales of nearly 100 million records worldwide, or to have several record-setting globe-trotting concert tours, all after the age of 45.
Both acts – Ike & Tina together and Tina solo – deserve their rightful places in the RRHOF, with each having formidable success as concert performers and Tina having the added bonus of becoming one of the best-selling artists of the 1980s and early ‘90s.
But the fact that – like Carole King – it took Tina more than two decades post-eligibility to get solo performer recognition by the Rock Hall while her joint career with ex-hubby Ike was recognized in less than a third of that time speaks volumes for how these two legendary women were shamefully overlooked for so long by this institution.
While women certainly don’t have the market cornered on being wronged by the RRHOF, their examples often seem more egregious. The late entries of King and Turner may be the worst examples yet.
It would be easy to point to other women’s inductions in attempting to refute the premise that ladies are too often ignored by the RRHOF’s nominating and voting committees. In some cases one might even argue that other women got in with fewer credentials than those of Ms. Turner or Ms. King, and that this somehow levels the playing field.
The recent inductions of artists like Stevie Nicks, Nina Simone, Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston have shown that the doors have certainly opened wider for more women in recent years. This likely paved the way for 2021 being the year with more female artists being nominated than any other.
For Carole King and Tina Turner, however, where the former had one of the most iconic albums of all time and the latter had the mother of all comebacks and has been widely considered the Queen of Rock for decades, both should have been in the Hall as solo performers years ago…both for their undeniable influence on generations of musicians that came after them as well as their amazing commercial successes.
In other words, it is King and Turner who should have been opening doors for the aforementioned women, not the other way around.
But now they’re both in, joining Nicks as the only women who are in the RRHOF twice. That at least counts for something, even if it doesn’t make up for the many years King and Turner had to share their RRHOF legacies with their late ex-husbands.
That Jay-Z, a rapper who wasn’t even born when Carole King and Tina Turner became professional performers, will be sharing the RRHOF induction stage with these iconic women, only exacerbates the delinquency of the two women receiving the music industry’s highest honor.
Perhaps Jay-Z’s own wife of 13 years, Beyoncé, – one of those heavily influenced by Ms. Turner – won’t have to wait decades from when she becomes eligible (in 2028) to be equally recognized.
In the meantime, congrats to Carole King, Tina Turner and, of course, Jay-Z – along with the rest of their 2021 induction class – on (finally) getting into that hallowed hall.
DJRob is a freelance music blogger from somewhere on the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog.
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