Nine Other MCs Who Need a Spot in the Songwriters Hall of Fame
Jay Z was the first, but he shouldn't be the last
Yesterday, Jay Z made music history by becoming the first rapper to ever be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. It was a crowning achievement for the culture, but it got us wondering why he’s the only one? Well, for starters, to qualify, inductees “must have been published songwriters for a minimum of 20 years with a notable catalog of hit songs.”
So with that in mind, we compiled a list of the MCs that should get in the Hall of Fame as soon as possible, and a few others greats that could be added in the near future.
Also we have to say while there have been plenty of transformative lyricists before rap took hold of the mainstream (what’s up Rakim, Chuck D, Scarface, Biggie, Raekwon, etc.), it’s that second, “catalog of hit songs” part that kept them out of our recommendations. We’re not saying we fully endorse the criteria, but those are the rules.
Andre 3000’s first album as one half of Outkast, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, dropped in 1994, which means he should have been a first ballot inductee three years ago. Alongside Big Boi, Andre has spoken up for the South’s way of life and offered sharp perspectives that weren’t always easy to digest. The man that had grandmas singing along to “Hey Ya” also delivered “Bombs Over Baghdad,” a song that still sounds like it’s from the future and forever shifted what a rap anthem could be. Even in his pseudo-retirement from music—Three Stacks hasn’t released a studio album since 2006—his sporadic guest verses have done more than keep his name out there, they’ve allowed him to remain one of the most influential MCs to ever do it (see: UGK’s “Int’l Player’s Anthem” and Frank Ocean’s “Solo (Reprise)”).
Clearly, the Songwriters Hall of Fame is slacking if Nas hasn’t been inducted yet. For over two decades Nas has crafted gritty, real, insightful and complex New York hip hop from an expert storyteller’s perspective. There should be entire college courses about his 1994 debut Illmatic, and in fact, it recently became one of the first four albums to be added to the archives of Harvard University’s library.
Pharrell has had a few hits as a solo artists, like “Frontin'” and the ubiquitous “Happy,” as well as some choice tracks as a part of N*E*R*D, but think about how much of a shaping presence he’s been on popular music since the start of the century. As a songwriter, producer and guest artist, the list of acts who have benefitted from his mind include Jay Z, Justin Timberlake, Gwen Stefani, Missy Elliot, Snoop Dogg, Clipse, Beyoncé, T.I, Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar and dozens more. Whoa.
Through his extensive discography, Ice Cube has been telling it like it is and making people listen for over 20 years. It was largely because of his forceful details and precise lyricism that N.W.A became more than just a shock act and actually shifted society. Then when Cube went out on his own, his insights into Amerikkka got even deeper.
Slim Shady became eligible for the Songwriters Hall of Fame after his debut album, Infinite, turned 20 last November. Eminem comes close to Jay as one of the best selling hip hop artists of all time, and he’s shown no plans on stopping. He turned into one of music’s biggest stars, and he did it without compromising his honest and often dark perspective.
Five platinum albums that have combined for over 30 million albums sold, plus five Grammy Awards—Missy Elliott’s career has been downright dominant. With a knack for extraordinary frills and unparalleled delivery, Elliot brought her V-A energy to the radio and firmly planted it there. She’s crafted futuristic dance anthems with a personality so quirky and inspiring, you couldn’t take your eyes off her extraterrestrial music videos or rip your ears away from the radio when her tracks dropped. Even in the current landscape, Elliot is the one that’s still willing to take chances, whether it’s on a younger artist like Anime or on a sound like “WTF.” She’s also got a songwriter credit on Aaliyah’s “One in a Million,” and that might be enough to earn her a spot in the SHOF.
Kendrick Lamar has got a long way to go before he will even be eligible to enter the SHOF, but we all know that if he keeps on spitting when he’s in his forties, he’s definitely going to be holding down a spot. Some may say it is too early to call him one of the greatest songwriters of our time, but To Pimp a Butterfly and good kid, m.A.A.d City will hold up as some of this era’s greatest works. And he’s just getting started.
Like Jay Z, Wayne is known for not his writing lyrics down, they’re all in his head, but that hasn’t stopped him from pulling off amazing lyrical feats. From the jubilant 15-year-old kid who popularized “bling bling” (one of the genre’s most culturally-impactful terms), to the Young Money boss who changed the mixtape circuit forever, Wayne is a relentless re-inventor. His ability to get flat out Ringling Bros. with wordplay has made his relevance to music the absolute hardest to kill.
Kanye West won’t be eligible for the Songwriters Hall of Fame for a few more years, but there is no way that they can ignore Yeezy. Seven of his eight studio albums have debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and Ye is tied with his big brother Hov for Grammy wins. And let’s keep it 100, we all know without Kanye West, still one of the world’s leading producers and curators, music wouldn’t sound the way it does today.