Lyor Cohen, former head of Def Jam Records and founder of 300 Records, has taken to Billboard to pen an impassioned opinion piece on LL Cool J’s much-deserved recognition by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Cohen has been on the board of directors for the Hall of Fame for over 10 years, but when it comes time to induct honorees, each board member only gets one vote ― the same as everyone else. With his inability to sway Cool J’s entrance into music’s most esteemed group. Says Cohen, “Mr. James Smith has been eligible for induction since 2010 and he’s been nominated for inclusion six times. But he’s never been voted in. And I think that that failure speaks to the limitations of too many of the HOF’s voters.”
Cohen makes a methodical case for Cool J’s importance in both rap music and in popular culture more generally, arguing that his grace and smooth sensibilities sometimes distract from how talented and hardworking he truly is.
“Even more broadly, LL spearheaded the global ascendancy of rap,” Cohen explains. “As one of the founders of the modern age of rap touring, he traveled the world, inspiring local rappers in any number of countries to make their own recordings in their native tongues. I saw the evidence in person as it first happened, and I continue to see it these days during visits to India, Vietnam, and Africa. There’s no doubt that rap is the number one musical form in the world, which is another way of saying it is the new rock & roll.”
Cohen also aims his criticism more directly at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, of which he is an integral member. Cohen’s examination of rap and the way it’s treated makes for a compelling argument. “How else to explain that only six rap acts have been voted into the hall to date,” he asks.
“But I think one of the bigger problems is the HOF’s ongoing debate about what exactly constitutes rock & roll ― even if we temporarily pull performers of color out of the equation. How much sense does it really make to say that Bill Haley & the Comets and Pink Floyd flew under the same flag…except that each of them both pledged allegiance to it?” Cohen’s letter makes one thing clear: It’s long past time that LL Cool J is finally admitted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.