The act of selling out has shown its ugly head many times throughout the evolution of music. It is where the deepest roots are stripped from the musical mind by a drastic change in sound and character of your favorite artist. It is the moment you realize from this point on, the music that created the soundtrack to your life will forever be limited to classic albums, and any attempt to continue listening to the “sell out” is straight up painful.

Let’s be clear however…

There is a difference between selling out and diversifying. When an artist diversifies their craft it simply means they have expanded their ORIGINAL sound to appeal to a larger demographic without severing ties with their true artistry. For instance, Jadakiss puts out some of the most commercial songs that money can buy i.e. “Who’s Real” with Swizz Beats and “By My Side” featuring Ne-Yo, but he is undoubtedly regarded as one of the best emcees of all time. Regardless to his popular moves, Jada merely conceptualizes his street-style lyricism to fit into a certain pocket, but his core following is still well-fed with the punchlines, flow, and cadence he is known for. Jada’s audience recognizes that he needs to make popular songs for revenue and relevance purposes, but they also know that no matter what, Kiss is going to spit that real sh*t every time. Even on the pop tracks, Jada’s verses are always coupled with truth and street wisdom, which is greatly appreciated by his fan base.

On the flip side, a true sellout takes their creativity and transforms it into a flavor that their core audience cringes at upon tasting. It is a detachment from an assembly of honor in order to gain notoriety from those who have not tread the muddy path to success with them. An appeasement to the bystander whose intentions resemble the exact opposite of the avid participant. It is a slap in the face to those who have invested time, money, and loyalty in the artist, only to be abandoned for the purposes of big business. Listen, it is understood that every one must have their own lane and must do what is best for them. The problem is that art is as personal as it is impersonal, but once you gain 100% recognition from one source, then completely disregard that source for another, it is a horrendous treason. For all those who rock with 90’s hiphop, the greatest example of the biggest sell out in rap history are, and may forever be, the Black Eyed Peas. Peep the dopeness below, that somehow transformed into the “My Lovely Lady Lumps” bullsh*t a couple of years later.

“I see a lot of liars so to dem I cross and fire
and they lyrics soundin tired, repetitious and expired
Cool dem down troop before they time get picked
I can’t take dem serious talkin about bullshit
Got money and cars but, can’t bullshit
and your lyrics are soundin like, some doo doo shit
While I’m holdin the mic tight, recite livin insight
so we can all benefit from the artform
man it took a toll for you to make dough
but forgot the main goal, almost lost the soul and got norm
Cause everybody’s talkin bout, high profilin
but it ain’t hip-hop to me (why? why? why?)
Cause everybody’s talkin bout, high profilin
but it ain’t hip-hop to me (so check it out y’all)”

-BEP Empire by Black Eyed Peas

Look, hiphop is our culture. Cutting down a forest to build a multi-billion dollar coal factory doesn’t change the fact that you purged the grounds for self interest. But if you take that same forest and work with it to produce that same multi-billion dollar result, now both the forest and the artist have benefited from the soil. Once you change the sound of hiphop to something it isn’t, it doesn’t matter how lucrative it is at that point because the people who should be learning, growing, and gaining value from it, are not- And the people who didn’t give a sh*t about the artist when he/she was struggling on the come up, are. But I understand, money talks and business is business. So go ahead and dance around in robot costumes all you want. Cut your hair into the shape of two butt cheeks and dye it blonde for all we care. Because the real, tried and true hiphop heads know what’s up.

Wu-Tang is for the kids.