Rolling Stone - For his much-anticipated Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction, rapper LL Cool J amped up the energy in Cleveland considerably, thanks to a career-spanning set that featured two of the night’s first major surprise guests: Eminem and Jennifer Lopez.
LL started off his set with a bang, going into 1987’s “Go Cut Creator Go,” from Bigger and Deffer. Sporting an all-silver iridescent jumpsuit with silver sparkle accents on the cuffs and neck, as well as a gray knit hat and sunglasses, he darted and jumped on the stage like a prizefighter. LL was clearly fired up to be performing, channeling the hunger and passion of his younger, Eighties self as he rapped.
After a bit of 1988’s “Going Back to Cali,” surprise guest Eminem nonchalantly walked onstage. What ensued was a positively incendiary collaboration on “Rock the Bells.” Eminem and LL dueted like they were in a rap battle, trading lyrics on the song with no-holds-barred ferocity; it was clear they were each pushing the other to perform better, faster, more.
After a bit of “I’m Bad” came another one of the night’s surprises: Jennifer Lopez strutted on stage for the duo’s sinewy 2003 No. 1 single “All I Have.” Wearing black pants, a bra top with silvery accents, and a blue jacket (and matching fingernails), she and LL playfully and flirtatiously sang together, representing well for the rapper’s R&B-influenced side.
LL’s performance closed with an equally fiery “Mama Said Knock You Out.” Figures wearing white hoodies appeared on the arena floor, dancing in the aisles of the floor around tables of inductees and audience members, before heading to the stage to mimic the music video’s fighter theme.
By this time, LL was clearly on another level — more than confirming that his induction was long, long overdue. Incredibly, however, he had been nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame six previous times before finally earning the nod in 2021.
It's pretty amazing that every year the biggest musicians in the world gather in Cleveland, OH and deliver once in a lifetime performances together that you would only hear for the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremonies, a Super Bowl Halftime Show, or a fundraiser for a huge cause.
(Sidebar- see end of the blog for some of the best performances from the past)
This year's ceremony was no different.
In fact, as the RS article mentioned, it might have raised the bar.
The festivities began on Thursday night when Foo Fighters threw a surprise concert at Cleveland's House of Blues for about 500 lucky fans.
(h/t Bobby Rutter for the video)
Saturday saw the class of 2021 inducted at the Rocket Mortgage Field House, home of the Cavs. They moved it from the theatre at the Rock Hall which enabled more fans and general public to see the show. Great thinking.
This year's induction class included Tina Turner, Carole King, LL Cool J, Jay-Z, the Go-Go’s, Todd Rundgren, Randy Rhoads, Gil Scott-Heron, Kraftwerk, Billy Preston, and Charley Patton.
The stacked performance lineup saw Taylor Swift open the evening with Carole King's "Will You Love Me Tomorrow"
Carole King was moved to tears, and performed “You’ve Got A Friend” on piano, with three of the session players that were with her to record the album it was on 51 years ago.
King gave a much-deserved shout-out to the Hall's first-ever female inductee, Aretha Franklin.
That was followed by a dedicated performance by Jennifer Hudson in Franklin's honor, of the timeless “Natural Woman".
Next up was the ridiculously overdue Tina Turner. Tina had actually been inducted in the 90's as a "songwriter". Part of the duo with her piece of shit husband Ike.
How the Hall took another 30 years to induct her based on her body of work, one of which Pink went out of her way to mention in her tribute speech was near impossible to accomplish is a joke. But better late than never.
(Fun fact - Tina Turner was forced to basically reinvent herself at the age of 50 years old after finally leaving Ike. No easy feat for anybody to do at that point in life. Never mind a black female. But she did it. Not only that, but she produced the best works of her career. A really inspirational story and example to everybody that it's never too late to do anything.)
That was followed by Keith Urban coming in off the bench for Bryan Adams and knocking out a medley of Tina Turner classics along with the incredibly talented H.E.R.
Which was followed by Christina Aguilera coming out to do "River Deep Mountain High".
Dr. Dre gave an awesome speech about LL Cool J
That lead into a performance by LL Cool J who trotted out Eminem and Jennifer Lopez
They gave a nice tribute to the late Biz Markie with a well done video (I can't find it anywhere online, sorry).
Later, Pharrell inducted the German experimental band Kraftwerk. He went in depth explaining what their legacy meant to hip-hop pioneers.
Late guitarist Randy Rhoads received the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Musical Excellence Award during the 2021 induction ceremony. The award is given to "artists, musicians, songwriters and producers whose originality and influence creating music have had a dramatic impact on music,"
"Randy Rhoads is a peerless talent," he says. "He revived Ozzy Osbourne’s career as his gunslinger sideman. And it was Randy Rhoads’ poster that I had on my wall. You could study Randy’s songs in a university-level musicology class and bang your heads to them in a 7-11 parking lot."
Others also offered their praises for Rhoads through video, including Osbourne, Steve Vai and Zakk Wylde. Metallica's Kirk Hammett noted how he copies some of Rhoads' solos on his own band's records. "Randy's guitar sound was giant," he said.
Barack Obama, via video, then introduced Jay-Z and expounded on the influence he has had on black America. Then a special unannounced guest came out. It was Dave Chappelle.
Chappelle went on for 10 minutes describing what Jay-Z meant to music, to hip-hop, and by extension, to rock and roll.
He got the loudest laugh of the night by stating he was ready to apologize to everybody, and then saying he was just kidding.
Jay-Z then took the stage and gave his acceptance speech.
What was really cool about Jay-Z's speech was that he name checked and gave credit to all the greats that came before him- Big Daddy Kane, KRS-One, Rakim, Chuck D, and “of course, my fellow inductee, LL Cool J … who opened up the doors for us to be vulnerable,” he said, singing the first verse of “I Need Love.”
Next up was another group that the Rock Hall should be ashamed took this long to induct: the all-female band, the Go-Go's.
Drew Barrymore gave a heartfelt, but strange introduction speech -
Not only were the Go-Go's hit machines, but they were the first super successful all female band that actually wrote their own music and played instruments.
Band members Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin, Gina Schock, Kathy Valentine, and Charlotte Caffey took the stage and dropped an awesome Rock-Hall medley of their hits like “Our Lips Are Sealed,” “Vacation,” and “We’ve Got The Beat.”
After that came the biggest highlight of the evening, Sir Paul McCartney inducting his biggest fan, Dave Grohl, and his band, The Foo Fighters.
He unsurprisingly gave an outstanding speech
The Foo's hit the stage and went straight into their hits
Before pausing to accept their honor and giving a few words of their own.
Dave Grohl, gushing over his hero, McCartney, and ever the wordsmith, said how growing up his parents weren't able to get him music lessons… but he had Beatles albums.
They then picked up their guitars again, along with McCartney, and brought the house down with "Get Back".
The only person absent was Todd Rundgren who missed out as he refused to show up because he thinks the whole thing is a joke.
Rundgren has indeed been fairly vocal about his feelings towards the Hall of Fame, which run the gamut between broad indifference and labelling it a “scam” when speaking to Billboard in February.
So instead he played a show in Cincinnati for fans.
All in all it was an awesome night. One that those who were honored, and those in attendance will not soon forget.
You can watch the entire thing, in crystal clear video and audio on HBO Max