2017 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Nominees: Janet and 2Pac

This morning I read the list of the official nominees for the 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I was pumped to see a couple of my childhood favorites: 2Pac and Janet Jackson. And then I continued to read and found out that in order to be considered for this honor, the band or artist must have released its first album at least 25 years prior to the day of nomination. And then I had to take another sip of coffee and read that over again. Twenty-five years ago, really? I’m officially at the age where I try to get my kids to listen to music from when I was younger. And I suppose it shouldn’t be a huge surprise since the only hip-hop station I really care for on SiriusXM is Backspin. I remember growing up in awe of Janet Jackson and completely infatuated with Tupac Shakur. We were all living a dream when Poetic Justice was released; and we tried to ignore the claims that the two didn’t really get along all that well. I still don’t believe it.

But the music.

Janet Jackson. What girl didn’t sit there with their Janet album sprawled open while attempting to memorize every single word from every single track? Even the intermissions.

Like a moth through a flame burned by the fire/my love is blind can’t you see my desire/That’s the way love goes

And you knew you were too young to be listening to “Anytime, Any place” and because of that it still has a firm seat as one of the sexiest songs of all time.

Any time/ any place /I don’t care who’s around.

Can you hear it? You can feel the candlelight flickering in that song or the moonlight:

I don’t want to stop just because/people standing round watching us/I don’t give a damn what they think/I want you now

The worlds you were able to live in listening to that one album when you were maybe 10 years old. Oops. I’m sure she didn’t intend for us little ones to be listening, but that we did. Luckily for our parents most of our time with her album was being in awe of her music videos and trying to learn the dance moves to “If.” I can’t even vogue properly, but I was determined to get that routine down–and I practiced every minute I got alone in my bedroom that I happened to share with two of my sisters. Alone time was limited. I’ll use that as my excuse for not performing the “If” reenactments. But there were always older kids that had that dance perfected. Did they know Janet Jackson’s choreographer? I was amazed. But here I am at 32 and when I hear:
If I was your woman/the things I’d do to you/but I’m not/so I can’t/and I wont/but if I was your girl

I’m transported back to that little girl and I attempt the dance moves again. No shame in my Janet Jackson game. I’m usually in the car listening to 90s on 9 when I hear it and I have to give the kids warning: “Boys! This is mommy’s song from when I was little! Do you love it?” And I usually get: “No, mom, it’s too loud.” I’m still working on their love for 90s music.

While my boys haven’t embraced my love for 90s Janet Jackson songs (yet), they actually do allow me to turn it up and get the car dance moves going with Tupac’s “California Love.” It’s the edited version, of course (maybe). Ahhh. Tupac Shakur. Those dreamy eyes and those lips and that smile. If you thought I was breaking it down to the Janet album you have no idea what was happening behind close doors during the All Eyez On Me double-disc album. Double Disc! Which one should we play first? “How do you want it? How does it feel?” If you don’t at least shake your leg a little bit when you hear “California Love” by 2Pac, then you need to maybe learn to relax a little bit.

We in that sunshine state where that bomb as hemp be/the state where you never find a dance floor empty
And if your hips aren’t moving just a little bit when you hear: Shake it shake it baby/shake it shake it/shake it mama

Well, then we may not have a whole lot in common.
That was my favorite album from my childhood, hands down. School dances and Tupac started playing? Forget about it. He was right, you didn’t find a dance floor empty–not even on the east coast. It looks like I’ll be making a new Spotify album or busting open all of my husband’s old CD binders that he’s still holding on to for apparently reasons like this. And if you were a fan like me, and about the same age as me, you remember where you were when you found out that Tupac had been shot. We all had hope that he’d survive and still make music. And then you remember what you were doing the day Tupac passed away. I was at a roller skating rink. Yep, I was at the 7pm-midnight skate (bad ass) and everyone was sad because of the news. I was wearing a baggy t-shirt and baggy jeans and probably make-up. I hate wearing make-up now, but, then I did wear terrible make-up.

In reality I was a little girl living in a small city that dressed in baggy jeans and t-shirts and listened to hip-hop who was way cooler than you, but most the lyrics in his songs I couldn’t relate to completely. But that didn’t matter then and still doesn’t matter now. He was a poet. And we can’t deny his lyrical gift whether you agree with the language used or not. And to our delight we were gifted with some posthumously released songs in his Greatest Hits album, which sparked the conspiracy that he never really died. I think some people may still believe that. One song we can’t ignore is “Changes,” which is still relevant today, unfortunately. I get chills every time I hear that song. I also turn it up–the boys don’t mind that one AND my husband encourages it also. Family bonding. This song makes references to the war on drugs, the perpetuation of poverty, the treatment of black people by the police, and other issues that we still face today. I can only imagine the beauty that would come from the lyrics he would be able to put together now.

But my experiences aside, if I were to look at the nominees for the 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and decide who should get inducted, Tupac Shakur would get my first (and incredibly enthusiastic) vote with Janet Jackson right behind him. Can anyone else see them together in a van transporting mail and chewing gum? So excuse me, now that I’ve been truly inspired for today’s playlist that I’ll be listening to as I reminisce and stop myself from breaking into dance moves, while I clean my house and organize my closets. Life was much simpler when I could sit around and memorize lyrics and dance it out with a crowd of friends. Luckily we always have the transformative power of music to bring us right back there, every single time.

Go, Pac!

Yeah, Janet!

whew, I must be getting old.

To check out all the nominees for the 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, click here:

2017 nominees

yes, Pearl Jam would round off my Top 3

Photo credit: NY Daily News

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