The number of artists who've made the Hall as Main Performers primarily for influence with little in the way of hits to show is fairly small, so it'd be hard enough for Gang Starr to join that club as it is – strike one against them if you're keeping score. But the fact that their influence is as hip-hop artists from the 90's (two areas the Hall seems allergic to) essentially means strike two and three to their chances for so much as a nomination. But they deserve another at-bat because Guru and DJ Premier shaped much of what's become ubiquitous since their arrival, from their jazzy beats to the social commentary of their lyrics, elevating the tenor of the dialogue within rap while doing a lot to revitalize the East Coast sound in a West Coast dominated era. While Premier's later work as an in-demand producer kept his name in the spotlight, Guru's 2010 death from long-standing health issues would make any honor bittersweet.
The Gap Band
If the Hall of Fame had any remaining credibility in their treatment of black rock, as well as the post-punk/disco era, the Gap Band would be a smart choice for a strong dark horse candidate. They possess four R&B chart toppers, plus another song, "You Dropped A Bomb On Me", which might be just as well known, if not more so. They successfully blended the funk of the 70's with the dance floor vibe of the early 80's without having their songs become sounding too dated to be presented to modern voters and audiences. But the Hall has been so neglectful of both styles and their era that until they've shown otherwise anyone representing even one of those factions, let alone all of them, have a slim chance at being given any thought whatsoever.
Pioneers in southern hip-hop, innovators in the extreme lyrical style dubbed horrorcore and at the forefront of the extreme controversy over sex, violence and sensationalism in rap at the time. But they never were opportunists or a sideshow, their music, though unquestionably graphic, also offered a chilling street level cynicsm of inner city America at the time. Their influence over the emerging southern rap culture is enormous, with Scarface in particular being heralded as one of the top MC's of all-time. With hip-hop in general getting little focus from the Hall, the notorious image of the Geto Boys means in all likelihood they'll never be seriously considered.
For a brief time the Go-Go's were the biggest female group on the planet, the faces of new wave excitement of the early 80's and just as capable as any male rock group of creating headlines. They burned out after three stellar albums, though Belinda Carlisle did have a decent solo career later in the decade, but they definitely left their mark. Whether decades later they'll get the critical respect needed to justify an induction remains to be seen, though they may get some support over the next few years and should eventually get in.
One of the most successful solo female rock artists of the 60's Gore had a four consecutive Top Ten hits, including a #1 smash to kick off her career. In addition she had one of rock's first feminist anthems in "You Don't Own Me"and her records, produced by Quincy Jones and often written by Gore herself, were among the most polished of their day, with Lesley's shimmering double-tracked vocals standing out. Certainly the equal in both stature and chart showing to Dusty Springfield, who's already been elected, which could give Gore a chance in the unlikely event that the somewhat square image she has in retrospect can be overcome.
Grand Funk Railroad
A string of huge albums in the early 70's, followed by a more successful singles-oriented run in the mid-70's, make Grand Funk Railroad one of the decade's consistent bands. The fact that their biggest hits were covers and they're viewed as more of a second tier hard-rock outfit when compared to their contemporaries have likely hurt their chances at a nomination. Probably destined to remain in the station.
Screamin' Jay Hawkins
Having no hits didn't stop the Velvet Underground from making the Hall Of Fame and the similarly hitless Hawkins was just as revolutionary in his time. In truth he may have had one uncharted hit, as "I Put A Spell On You" faced an outright radio ban due to its "cannibalistic nature" in 1956, but reportedly sold over a million copies. But his real impact was found in his eccentric over the top delivery and the creation of the theatrical stage show, which included climbing out of a coffin on stage and introducing pyrotechnics to rock concerts. The first underground rock star of note.
Champion of the aggressive underground spinoff of punk that led to alternative, Hüsker Dü's credentials are built entirely on influence, including making the leap to a major label while retaining the same lack of concessions approach, which was a coup for the post-punk movement. But despite a string of mid-80's albums that were uniformly well received they could never quite find broader acceptance, which was left to the groups they spawned to achieve. Do they have a chance at a nomination? Nope. Should they get in if they somehow managed one? No, not quite. But should they be ignored entirely? No, definitely not.
What are the chances that the rap-phobic Hall voters would actually make Ice Cube a two-time inductee to join the likes of the individual Beatles, Paul Simon and Neil Young and their ilk in that regard? Probably slim to none. Yet Cube’s solo career more than holds its own when compared to any second act of other rock legends, as he scored seven Top Ten albums after leaving N.W.A, including some of the most defining records of their time. He perfected the on-record beefs that advanced the notoriety of hip-hop as a whole and in the process drove rap’s early 90’s popularity to ever greater heights. His later movie-star status may have toned down his image somewhat, but even that move to film was massively influential, as it broke the mold in the long history of rock stars turned big-screen failures (either creatively or commercially). No doubt the Hall will think that by inducting N.W.A they can leave it at that. Think again.
Instrumental in launching the West Coast movement after early hip-hop had been almost entirely an East Coast phenomonon, and set the prototype for the advent of gangsta rap with the title song to the movie Colors, which brought the hardcore style of the streets into public view. Soon formed the metal group Body Count and his merger of the two competing styles was vital in allowing for cross-cultural appreciation from those respective fanbases. The controversy over their track "Cop Killer" brought down enormous societal pressure though and he soon switched his focus to acting, one of the first in a long line of rappers to make a successful jump to the screen. Far more influential than he's given credit for by most.
Australian refugees of the new wave scene saw their worldwide popularity soar after moving more into mainstream rock circles, first working with Chic legend Nile Rodgers, then scoring chart topping single and album in 1987 when they were briefly one of the hottest bands on the planet but fell off rather quickly from that extraordinary peak. Yet they had a great frontman in Michael Hutchence, a tight band, and good songcraft with strong dance grooves making for a perfect sound for the mid to late 80's. But purely commercial artists, especially from that decade, always a have tough go of it with the Hall's critical appraisal and since they were never groundbreaking they lack influence to bolster their case, thus remain a long shot for even getting a nomination.
Considering the lack of metal acts inducted so far things don't look promising for Maiden, especially considering they didn't have the crossover appeal of some of their contemporaries who broke through the mainstream with a handful of singles from time to time. Maiden on the other hand were immensely popular album artists among hardcore metal heads with little recognition outside that fan base. If the style itself starts getting more attention from voters, which has recently begun to happen, their chances go up, but they will probably remain a long shot regardless of their credentials.
The youngest member of the Jackson musical clan and the one who initially seemed least likely to follow in the family business when she became a child actress of note on the hit TV show Good Times. When she did make the switch to music however in the mid-80's she quickly eclipsed all of her siblings not named Michael. Working with producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Jackson popularized New Jack Swing which fast became the dominant melodic black rock style of the 90's female artists of the era. Absolutely inexcusable and indefensible that she's not in.
The last word on funk in the 70's came from James who scored four #1 R&B hits in his career and had his most remembered song with the ubiquitous "Super Freak" before turning most of his attention to producing. Mounting legal troubles and his eccentric image sank his reputation before an early death brought renewed attention to his work. Controversial and at times nearly a caricature of himself, but lingering name recognition might make him an outside contender.
Tommy James & The Shondells
Little respect despite a lot of hits in rock's most revered decade. James pulled the somewhat remarkable feat of going from a garage rock idol to making more opulent hits, keeping pace with the times and remaining successful throughout it all. But the years since haven't been kind to the image of the group during any of those stages, even though their biggest songs remain widely identifiable and have been frequently covered and made hits again. A rarity in that they are a big name long shot.
Jan & Dean
A duo that is easy to underrate because their on-record attitudes were so carefree and jokey at times that it masked how musically innovative they were, particularly Jan Berry who was among the first rock artists to fully take control of the studio process. They were the only artists ever to hit #1 on the charts with a surf-themed record, 1963's "Surf City", made one of the most ambitious concept albums ever in "Pop Symphony #1", and had a long run of hits in multiple styles from 1958-1966 before Berry was nearly killed in a car crash, essentially ending their career. The top eligible duo in rock not yet in.
One of the more interesting and creative bands to emerge in the late 80's, Jane's Addiction was a musical hybrid that combined hard rock roots with punk aesthetics and an arty touch and in the process became one of the touchstones of the alternative movement. Frontman Perry Farrell created the massively popular Lollapalooza tour that became an annual rite of passage for alternative bands to play during the 90's, but the group itself broke up after the first tour and two iconic albums with a few sporadic reformations in the years since with varying personel. Their star burned brightly but faded quickly, but that's become more common in recent decades, so their short lifespan may not hurt them.
The Jesus And Mary Chain
The Jesus & Mary Chain were innovative with their feedback induced performances and almost hostile disdain for audiences at times, yet with enough trace of pop hooks to still connect with listeners. Though the style never became mainstream it did spawn a number of followers who made their own mark in subsequent years, while J&MC came as close as they ever would get to breaking through to a wide audience by the mid-90's before breaking up a few years later. As innovators go they had just enough success and influence to be remembered, but not enough to expect the Hall to open its doors.
One of the more popular progressive artists of the early 70's with two chart topping albums, decent singles showings (especially in England), a unique blend of styles and an enduring image as innovators. All that would normally be enough to get at least a nomination but they remain hamstrung by the lack of mainstream critical appreciation of the style itself. If that can be overcome they stand maybe the best overall chance at induction for a prog-rock artist.
A solid but unspectacular career for what many perceive to be a second tier arena rock band doesn't bode well for their chances, especially since they've been eligible since 1997 and haven't gotten a sniff from the voters. Don't expect that to change in upcoming years. But in respected lead singer Steve Perry and a string of hits throughout the 80's, they have enough credentials to at least be considered, though it is unlikely the results will change.
Being one of the poster bands for a rock sub genre that always appealed more to teenage boys than voting age critics have most likely crippled Judas Priest's chances at induction despite having massive influence within that style, not only musically but image-wise as well. Like most metal stars they have very little in the way of crossover songs to make them more familiar to the mainstream and indicates to voters an appeal to notoriously loyal metal fans only. Unfair perception maybe, but true.
Big Daddy Kane
Among the most respected and influential solo rappers of the 80's, Kane elevated the art of the MC and was one of the pioneers of speed rapping and complex rhyme schemes. In addition he brought deeper lyrical aspirations, further advanced the growing image of MC's as unrivaled lovers and was among those who presented rap as a road to riches with his style of dress and demeanor on record. His writing skills brought hits to a number of others, notably Biz Markie, and though his reign was relatively brief, he has a bunch of classic albums and monumental singles and more than enough influence to be a mandatory selection.
One of, if not the very first, progressive rock groups in existence, gets them some quality innovation and influence points but it hasn't been enough so far to get them looked at. Although prog itself remains a solid rock sub genre in terms of fan appeal, the lack of any sustained major mainstream success for King Crimson, combined with a non-set lineup and the voting body's general dismissal of the style itself, doesn't add up to a likely induction despite their credentials as groundbreakers.
Ben E. King
Since he's already in as a member of the Drifters it seems unlikely he'd get a second induction as a solo artist, but the fact that he has two immortal singles in "Stand By Me" and "Spanish Harlem", along with a string of other hits, means he's always a candidate for more consideration. Had a huge comeback single in the mid-70's that hit #1 on the R&B Charts but nevertheless is thought of mainly for his early 60's output, which might make him appear to have a rather short lived peak career. He's been nominated before so he could get another in the future if the voters feel the need for another living artist from that era to induct.
Kool & The Gang
The split in styles that separates the 70's funk-era Kool & The Gang, which would garner strong support, and the ballad oriented 80's era after adding new vocalists J.T. Taylor, which would probably not be as widely supported, could be affecting the chances of the group to make headway in voters eyes. If enough voters can consider their entire body of work rather than just focusing on whatever part is most dominant in their memories they have more than enough success and innovation to make it.
Kool G Rap & DJ Polo
Among the most respected rap acts of their day, the two had made waves with a handful of singles dating back to 1986 before dropping their massively influential debut album, Road To Riches, in 1989. Innovative sonically, gifted storytellers, as well as boasting some of the freshest rhymes heard at that point, the duo continued their run into the early 90's before splitting. Though somewhat overshadowed by more successful artists of their own era, they were revered within hip-hop circles and more than held their own in the golden age of rap. A glaring absence.
Two words keep them an outside threat for enshrinement - unique influence. Groundbreaking use of electronics changed the face of popular music from the 70's onward. Their influence is well documented even as their music remains curiously unknown and a lack of mainstream familiarity is always dangerous to any artist's chances. Their notoriety will keep their candidacy afloat however, even though it probably won't ever be enough to get them in.