Passed over three times, N.W.A is elected to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Randy Lewis

N.W.A has followed the success of "Straight Outta Compton" straight into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

After being passed over three times, the influential Compton rap group rode a wave of critical and popular acclaim generated by its hit biopic this year to finally win over Rock Hall voters, who also included Cheap Trick, Chicago, Deep Purple and Steve Miller in its 2016 class.

The induction of the latter four bands is a victory for classic rock fans, who have generated the most complaints about the Rock Hall's exclusion of popular but not always critically acclaimed performers.

Not coincidentally, three of the inductees — Chicago, Deep Purple and Miller — finished in the top five in fan voting. Although that amounted to contributing only a single vote for each of the five most popular acts, it indicates to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voters which acts are favored by fans.

Chicago was the populist choice among the fans, collecting more than 37 million votes and registering more than 23% of ballots cast by the general public. However, fan voting was not enough to sway voters toward the prog-rock band Yes, which was second with 26.1 million votes (16.2%), followed by the Cars, who were also shut out despite collecting 26 million votes (16.1%). They were followed by inductees Deep Purple with 25.54 million votes (15.9%) and Miller, who collected 25.51 million votes (15.9%).

N.W.A, by comparison, collected about 674,000 votes, or just 0.42%.

The fan vote is added to the deciding votes by those cast by 800-plus Rock Hall voters, some of whom have complained privately in recent years that the hall's leadership is catering increasingly to popular sentiment because the physical museum needs a steady stream of visitors to remain financially healthy.

Besides Yes and the Cars, the acts that made the final ballot but did not make the cut included Janet Jackson, the Spinners, Chaka Khan, the J.B.'s (James Brown's backing band), Nine Inch Nails, the Smiths and Los Lobos. The influential disco band Chic, fronted by Nile Rodgers, also failed to earn enough votes despite its 10th nomination.

Although the official criteria for induction is an artist's influence upon the art and craft of popular music — not sales — the Hall in recent years has increasingly found room for fan favorites that had been passed over by Hall voters. Chicago, for instance, became eligible for induction in 1994 — under the Hall's requirement that 25 years have elapsed since the release of an act's first recording — but made the nomination list for the first time this year.

Inductees will be recognized at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's annual induction ceremony, which is scheduled for April 8 at the Barclays Center in New York. The ceremony rotates on a three-year cycle between the Hall of Fame's physical home in Cleveland and venues in New York and Los Angeles.