KISS bassist Gene Simmons has been an outspoken critic of rap music, but even he admits that it has become more culturally important than rock, and he puts this down to the death of the extravagant rock star.
Simmons infamously spoke out when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame began to include rappers in their induction. “A few people decide what’s in and what’s not,” he told Radio.com in 2014. “And the masses just scratch their heads. You’ve got Grandmaster Flash in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Run-DMC in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? You’re killing me. That doesn’t mean those aren’t good artists. But they don’t play guitar. They sample and they talk. Not even sing.”
Furthermore, in 2016, when it was announced N.W.A. were due to get inducted, Simmons again condemned the move. He told Rolling Stone, “I am looking forward to the death of rap,” he also added, “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.”
However, Simmons believes he understands why it has overtaken rock despite his problems with the genre. During his appearance on The Henry Rollins Show in 2007, he said the growth of hip-hop is “because rockers stopped acting like rockstars”.
He continued: “You didn’t want to show them you had beautiful houses, you didn’t want to show them you were surrounded by beautiful women with big tits, which we all love — don’t kid yourself. You didn’t want to wear jewellery or drive around in a fast car.
“We started to look like bums, and who didn’t? Rappers. Rappers are the new rockstars, they feel great, unapologetic, they flip you off, they throw money on the screen, they are rockstars. We want our rockstars to be unlike ordinary people, but the rockstars became ordinary people.”
In fairness, Simmons is correct about rockstars becoming less extravagant in the modern age, but the correlation to success is unfounded, and it’s also no bad thing either. There’s no need for musicians to act in a certain way because of their profession, and they should feel free to be true to themselves.
Admittedly, on the whole, rappers tend to be more boastful in their demeanour and slip into larger than life personas, but that’s not the case for everybody in hip-hop.
There was a time and a place for stereotypical rockstars, and now, it feels somewhat dated. Additionally, audiences will see right through the pastiche if it’s not genuine. From a journalist’s standpoint, the return of trouble-making rockstars would be welcome. However, in the age of social media, this behaviour seems unlikely to return.