Run-DMC joins the heavy metal band Metallica, guitarist and former Yardbirds member Jeff Beck; soul singer and guitarist Bobby Womack and doo-wop group Little Anthony and the Imperials as this year's inductee class.
Though Run-DMC wasn't among the first rap acts, they were the first to achieve widespread mainstream success, and the first to notch a platinum album with 1986's "Raising Hell." The rapping duo of Joseph "Run" Simmons and Darryl "DMC" McDaniels — plus their DJ, the late Jam Master Jay — were rap's first rock stars. They had hits with songs like "My Adiddas" and "It's Tricky," but had their greatest success when they remade Aerosmith's "Walk This Way" with the rock act for a groundbreaking collaboration.
In an interview Wednesday, McDaniels called Run-DMC's induction "inconceivable."
"I'm a rap dude, I'm an MC from Hollis (a neighborhood in New York's borough of Queens), just rockin' the mic, and to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with the Beatles, and (Bob) Dylan, and the rock 'n' roll gods? It's ridiculous! Ridiculous in a good way," he said.
He also gave a nod to the predecessors who paved the way for the group's success: "I share this nomination and the induction and the whole award with those cats, everyone from the Bronx and Harlem who started this."
Jam Master Jay — whose real name was Jason Mizell — was shot to death in his recording studio in 2002. McDaniels doesn't consider the induction bittersweet — "because Jay isn't here to celebrate doesn't mean he's not partaking in this event" — but said he couldn't see the duo performing during the April 4 induction ceremony in Cleveland without him.
"We can't do it without Jay," he said. "I want people to remember the last time they saw us together, the three of us."
Like Run-DMC, Metallica made its debut 25 years ago with the seminal album "Kill 'Em All," and became pioneers in their genre, with their thrashing metal sound, led by the frenetic guitar play of James Hetfield and the drumming of Lars Ulrich. One of rock's more enduring bands, the group has sold upwards of 60 million records in the United States alone, and are still one of music's most successful acts: They are on a top-selling tour, their latest album, "Death Magnetic," has sold more than a million copies and has also been nominated for Grammy awards.
"Life is good in Metallica right now. A lot of good things are happening. Quite opposite of what they were during the `St. Anger' time," said Hetfield, referring to the 2003 CD that was reviled by many Metallica fans.
The group — which also consists of guitarist Kirk Hammett and bass player Robert Trujillo — also went through periods of infighting (famously chronicled in the 2004 documentary "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster").
"So all the work and effort that we put into our relationship back then has brought a lot of fruits of labor with that, on this album, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Grammys. So we're feeling good," Hetfield added.
He also said the honor was for everyone who had played with the group: Late bassist Cliff Burton and bassist Jason Newsted, who will also be inducted.
Cleveland native Womack, who was part of the group the Womack Brothers until breaking out on his own with hits including "If You Think You're Lonely Now," said the induction ceremony would bring him back home for the first time in almost three decades.
"This is just the greatest, I'm extremely happy," he said. "It proves that, if you're blessed to be able to wait on what's important to you, a lot of things will change in life."
Besides the main inductees, rockabilly singer Wanda Jackson got a nod for the early influence category, and the sidemen inductees are session musician Spooner Oldham and two of Elvis Presley's musicians — drummer D.J. Fontana and bassist Bill Black.
The induction ceremony is returning to Cleveland after several years in New York City. It will aired live by the Fuse network.
The hall of fame also announced on Wednesday that Bruce Springsteen will be the focus of a new exhibit called "From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen." It opens April 1.