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NEW YORK, Dec 17, (AFP): Gangsta rap pioneers N.W.A., who shocked white America with their no-holds-barred denunciations of police brutality, won recognition Thursday for their historical role as they were named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The museum to popular music said it will also induct Midwestern US rockers Cheap Trick and Chicago, British hard rock forbearers Deep Purple, and psychedelic bluesman Steve Miller as its 2016 class.
N.W.A had been nominated three previous years without winning approval, but the group enjoyed renewed attention in August with the biopic film “Straight Outta Compton,” which opened at the top of the US box office.
The film was named for N.W.A.’s debut 1988 album that featured the track “Fuck tha Police,” a searing indictment of officers’ treatment of young African-American men like the group members, who grew up in the rough Los Angeles-area city of Compton.
N.W.A. — which stands for Niggaz Wit Attitudes — set the stage for the genre of gangsta rap and raised the political profile of hip-hop, now a frequent means of protest around the world.
“N.W.A.’s improbable rise from marginalized outsiders to the most controversial and complicated voices of their generation remains one of rock’s most explosive, relevant and challenging tales,” the Hall of Fame said in its announcement.
The induction comes amid renewed criticism of police tactics after a series of killings of African-Americans.
N.W.A. gave rise to the solo careers of Ice Cube, the late Eazy-E and Dr Dre, who went on to become a multimillionaire entrepreneur employed by Apple.
“Our impact is to show the people that you have a voice. You can say something; you don’t have to just sit back and let it happen,” Ice Cube told AFP ahead of the movie’s release.
Public Enemy, arguably the rap group best known for turning hip-hop into a political tool, entered the Hall of Fame in 2013.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame determines inductees through voting by more than 800 music figures, with a fan poll contributing one ballot.
The Cleveland-based museum will honor the new members at an April 8 ceremony in New York that is sure to renew talk of a long-rumored N.W.A. reunion.
N.W.A. performed together in June in Los Angeles, but Dr Dre did not join.
Deep Purple still tours but without 70-year-old guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, who parted in 1993 and has since pursued folk music.
Blackmore is the force behind one of rock’s most distinctive openings — the blues riff adapted to electric guitar that begins “Smoke on the Water.”
“Only Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony gives it a run for the money as far as recognizability and badassed-ness,” the Hall of Fame announcement said.
Deep Purple joins two other British groups already in the Hall of Fame — Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath — that together spawned hard rock.
Chicago, who won the fan ballot, grew out of the jazz tradition of the band’s namesake city, bringing the genre’s free-flowing melodies to pop.
While initially taking up political themes, Chicago turned into the quintessential soft rock band with a slew of radio-friendly ballads such as “If You Leave Me Now,” “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” and “You’re the Inspiration.”
Cheap Trick, also from the state of Illinois, developed a style of heartland rock with guitar-driven anthems such as “Surrender.”
Cheap Trick discovered an early fan base in Japan where the band recorded a classic 1978 live album at the Budokan arena.
Steve Miller, while born in Wisconsin, became a leading force in the cultural mix in San Francisco in the 1960s as he experimented with jazz, blues and other American roots music.
But the Steve Miller Band also achieved commercial success, notably with 1973 song “The Joker.”
Miller, Cheap Trick and Chicago all won the first year they were nominated.
Other first-time nominees, including pop star Janet Jackson and Mexican-American trailblazers Los Lobos, were passed over.
Disco sensations Chic maintained a losing streak after a record 10 nominations.
Chic’s co-founder Nile Rodgers recently told AFP he did not want to “get weird” about the lack of recognition but added, “I’ve written more hit records than almost everybody in the Hall of Fame. Come on, guys!”