NEW YORK What do you call the group of people who influenced old-school hip-hop pioneers? Probably the First School. Hip-hop trailblazers Doug E. Fresh, Slick Rick, Run-DMC's DJ Jam Master Jay, Crazy Legs and some of the people who inspired them in their youth were all present Wednesday night at the Puck Building for the inaugural Hip-Hop Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
"It's an honor, kid," one of the honorees, Slick Rick, said before the ceremony. "I finally get a little recognition, it can't hurt. When I was growing up, I never thought we would be so close to the root of this whole thing. It's an honor, a great feeling to be part of something that made history and see it spread. [Hip-hop] is taking over big time."
Prior to the ceremony, it felt as if the Puck Building were full of living pin-ups from an old issue of Right On! or Word Up! magazine from the mid-to-late '80s. Luminaries such as Grandmaster Caz, Grandmaster Flash, Roxanne Shante, U.T.F.O.'s Kangol Kid, the Real Roxanne and Special Ed all spoke on their origins in rap.
There were a few friendly disputes as to which year certain things happened, who originated the term "hip-hop" and who came first, the break dancer, the MC or the DJ. The highlight, however, was a brief catty exchange between Roxanne Shante and the Real Roxanne as they told of how their beef on wax started.
"I never worried about what other people were doing," Shante said. "That's why I was able to last and the other Roxannes faded away."
Unfortunately, many of the Hall of Fame's first 15 inductees, including the father of hip-hop DJ Kool Herc, LL Cool J, Salt-N-Pepa, Queen Latifah, Afrika Bambaataa, KRS-One and Russell Simmons, were absent from the proceedings. Deceased MCs Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur and late graffiti great Dondi were also among the inductees.
Those who were there took their time in the spotlight to salute those who made them want to choose their career paths. "In the early '70s I decided to sacrifice my teenage years," Grandmaster Flash said in his acceptance speech about beginning his life as a DJ. He credited DJ Kool Herc as his greatest influence. "After 27 years the first [year] didn't count 'cause nobody was understanding me I guess I wasn't so crazy after all, 'cause you people [get it]. This one's for us."
Doug E. Fresh took that one-for-all motif to heart when he was officially inducted. "I cannot accept this award," Fresh told the audience. "This award has to go to my brotha Busy Bee. Because I'm a legend, but this is the muthaf---in' man, the Chief Rocker. I can't get an award like this first. I'll get mine last. As a kid watching him, you don't understand what this man did for me and my family, so I'm telling you, my brotha, that's from me to you."
Jam Master Jay didn't give up his award when he accepted it on behalf of his group Run-DMC, but he did give props to Russell Simmons for helping them with their image, Grandmaster Flash for inspiring him to spin records, and the Cold Crush Brothers for giving Run and DMC ideas on how to rock the mic.
"Everybody says 'if it wasn't for you cats,' but we know that's bullsh-- because we know there was cats before us," Jay said. "We just was the people that were able to put the real beats from the street which y'all brothers was doing and put it on TV, let people hear it on wax. It had to be Sugar Hill Gang to bite off my man Grandmaster Caz. It had to be a Puff Daddy to bite off of the Sugar Hill Gang. It goes around in circles."
Organizers of the event said they are currently trying to secure a location for the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame museum.
The Hip-Hop Hall of Fame is part of the Hip-Hop Super Conference & Expo, which is taking place at the Puck Building through the rest of the week, and is the brainchild of David Olu. Olu, who lectures about the culture around the world and created the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame board game two years ago, said the inductees were chosen by people voting at the Web site www.hhsc2002.com the past few months. Notorious B.I.G. was the favorite, getting 60 percent of the nods.