In current events by the time of this column’s publishing, 80’s rock icon Gene Simmons is saying stupid things, repeatedly.
Perhaps he never liked hip-hop. That’s understandable; many white men from the 80’s era despise hip-hop or rap music. That’s kinda normal. Gene Simmons is very butthurt over the fact that NWA, a rap group Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and the late Easy-E are a part of, made it into the Rock Hall of Fame.
“Rap will die. Next year, ten years from now, at some point, and then something else will come along. And all that is good and healthy. I am looking forward to the death of rap” ~ Gene Simmons
“I want to say to Mr. Gene Simmons, hip-hop is here forever. Get used to it!” ~ MC Ren
As a fellow who observes all genres of music, to include video game and movie scores, I’ll have to say that Gene Simmons’ claim is very intellectually dense. Rap isn’t a sub-genre of a genre of music, like glam rock — the style of music he hails from, which did get killed, with a final nail in the coffin placed by grunge legends, Nirvana. To a near-racist white man, rap may seem to be all the same, but rap in itself is a very diverse genre of music, boasting differing branches off the same tree much like rock music. It would have made more sense, if Simmons stated that he’s looking forward to the death of trap music (rap sub-genre), in which case I would be in full agreement. Rap music will NEVER die; it has too many cultural artifacts interlaced into it, on top of the practical free-advertisement businesses get when they mention something, like Adidas, Timberland boots or Bacardi. Ludwig Goransson, the composer who scored the background music for the movie Creed, uses hip-hop elements in his sound for movies… With many more doing this, along side directors seeking this essence, how can hip-hop die? It’s impossible.
“You goddamn right we rock and roll. Rock and roll is not an instrument, rock and roll is not even a style of music. Rock and roll is a spirit. It’s a spirit. It’s been going since the blues, jazz, bebop, soul, R&B, rock and roll, heavy metal, punk rock, and yes, hip-hop. And what connects us all is that spirit. That’s what connects us all, that spirit. Rock and roll is not conforming to the people who came before you, but creating your own path in music and in life.” ~ Ice Cube
“Respectfully — let me know when Jimi Hendrix gets into the hip hop hall of fame. Then you’ll have a point.” ~ Gene Simmons
This is where it gets even more interesting. Gene Simmons seems to think that “rock” or “rock and roll” is only a specific type of music, more to the point, the type of music he used to make. Gene Simmons wondering when Jimi Hendrix will make it in the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame is a argument of semantics. In fact, it’s an absurd argument of semantics.
You know what Gene Simmons reminds me of here? A person who really rants and raves about how a truck is not a car. If someone says “get in the car” or “check out my new car” and there’s a van or a truck there, there’s no point arguing over the fact that it’s literally a truck or a van; call it a car and we still know what you are talking about. A car is used as a blanket term to point out an automobile. Well, at least in America it is. The word “car” is practically synonymous with the word “automobile”.
“Who stole the soul? Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Chubby Checkers help invent Rock ‘n’ Roll. We invent it. Y’all reprint it.” ~ Ice Cube
Modern American music is spoken of, and thought of, in the same manner. Rock, or “Rock and Roll”, is a term to describe modern American music, all of which have branched off from Jazz music, a music form Afro-Americans created. So yes, hip-hop is also rock and roll. Ice Cube is correct; rock and roll is an attitude, and essence. A spirit. And from there, rock and roll encompasses blues, jazz, bebop, soul, R&B, rock and roll, heavy metal, punk rock, and of course, hip-hop. This also explains his semantic argument, with counter-arguments to throw right back. Drake (rapper) for example, can be placed in a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he will never be placed in a Death Metal Hall of Fame. Ice Cube will never see NWA in a Glam Rock Hall of Fame. Similarly, while a truck is considered a car, that truck isn’t considered a sedan. There’s a distinction between broad, blanketing terms, and the specifics a sub-class gets into.
Gene Simmons, like many racist whites, seems to think something’s only music when there’s a melody involved. Under this logic, whites are for decades argued that rap music isn’t music at all, due to the fact that it’s not literally singing. Well, that notion is also flawed, and here’s why: Yes music has melody. Yes melody is an element of music. But percussion is also an element of music. Percussion, is the sound family where drums are found. James Brown’s style of music in theory, treated every instrument like a drum; this is why he had horn “hits” in his music. You don’t “hit” a horn literally, but how it was used, it was used in the same manner as a drum hit. Rap music — the lyrical side of it — is an extension to that music logic. The voice in rap music isn’t a saxophone, flute, or guitar, it’s used as a drum — keeping rhythm within the overall composition. With that being said, rap lyrics IS music in the same manner a drum solo is also music. Did you just witness me school Gene Simmons on music theory? Yeah, that just happened. A rapper’s voice on a rap song, is a percussion instrument, not a melodic one, though it can often play both anyway.
Overall, Gene Simmons needs to sit his dumb ass down. Rap — or hip-hop — is here to stay, and will continue to receive accolades and lifetime achievement awards.