Attention all rap fans, listeners, purveyors of its music, proponents of its culture and everything else in between (myself included): you’re all a bunch of spoiled, ungrateful brats.
We’re never happy when a producer experiments with a different sound. We cheered on the likes of DJ Premier and Kanye West for their then-innovative soundscapes when they first popped up on the scene, but now decry their value once the step outside of the box to produce for Christina Aguilera or add a vocoder sound effect in their songs. We loved it when Biggie was talking about taking the road less traveled to success, but spat on him when he actually became a success. Common made about as much money off his first three albums as I did when I used to work at Pizza Hut, and fans praised him for “keeping it real.” But one (admittedly doofy) Gap commercial later, and the same rapster community is calling for his head.
In our defense, however, he should have had his kufi smacked off for rocking crocheted pants on that cover of Essence. Hell, he should have had the shit slapped off for being on the cover of Essence period. But that’s beyond the point.
Why do hip-hop fans do this, though? It’s like we want our acclaimed lyricists to fail, all for the sake of “remaining real” and ultimately pleasing us regardless of if they can make their mortgage payments on time or not. But I ask you, what’s wrong with making money? Isn’t “getting a well-paying job” one of the first things our parents told us to do when we were growing up? Isn’t that the reason most of us do what we do in the first place? I don’t know about you, but I’m past that age where the things I do to stay out of my mother’s house I do solely for the “love” of it. Do I love what I do? Sure. But you know what else I love? Being able to keep my cell phone on. Being able to buy some Tussin when I’m sick. Not secretly praying that my card doesn’t get rejected whenever I hand it to a cashier. You know, things like that.
Don’t get me wrong though, I know the difference between “paying bills on time” and “selling out.” I’m just assuming here, but I believe that – from the perspective of a rapper – if one spend years working on their craft only to have it leaked onto the Internets (heh), underperform on the sales charts and end up deep in debt from being unable to recoup for your benefactors, would you reject an opportunity to do something that could potentially put more money in your pocket? In the professional world, something similar to that is called a “promotion” or “raise” (or in hood logic, a “come up”). In rap, however, you’re dismissed as a sellout. But if a rapper does drastically changes up his style in a funnystyle, financially motivate manner – like, say, go from rhyming on a project bench to wearing a pink-ass suit – then it was probably within them from the gate and only came into fruition when they came into money.
This topic is a bit touchy, and I’m sure I didn’t nearly do a good job trying to convey how I feel about it. I understand the rap fan’s never-ending desire to keep hip hop at its essence (news flash: that’s never going to happen), but I also understand that something like Mos Def guest-starring on Yo Gabba Gabba could be perceived as “expanding one’s range” to allow them to get more opportunities for their career. But who am I to say something as if I’m an authority on this shit? Do you, I suppose.
* waits for peanut gallery to call me a sell-out *