During the initial Pop Rap explosion of Hammer and Vanilla Ice, to call someone a sell-out or trying to cross-over was the worst possible thing you could accuse a rapper of doing, pretty much today’s equivalent of being labeled a snitch or a former correction’s officer…Shit’s done changed, obviously, as even selling music has become a struggle, but the concept of selling-out on your original musical vision or style has become more common-place than ever.
Take ya boy Wiz Khalifa, for example. Dude started off making backpack rap over soul beats on his 2006 debut Show & Prove, but as soon as Warner Brothers signed him the following year he made the god-awful ‘Say Yeah’, which was a Euro-beat based shot at the Pop Life. After sitting on the shelf at WB for a couple of years he reinvented himself as a tattooed stoner who liked to sing as much as rap, a move which seemed to work a charm as he was named both ‘Rookie of the Year’ in The Source and part of XXLMag’s ‘Top 10 Freshmen’ in 2010. He’s now established himself as Snoop Jr. with his whole ‘Black & Yellow’ movement, which is great since it means he can afford to drop somewhere in the vicinity of $720,000 to post bond for himself and his failed weed carriers after he got nabbed by the beast in East Carolina…The question remains: does his musical ‘evolution’ from Backpack Rap to Pop Rap to Stoner Rap indicate that Wiz is a calculated opportunist who jumps on whatever bandwagon he spots speeding past or the natural progression of a ‘talented musician’?
Or how should we judge the massive change in the sound of Kidz In The Hall, who entered the game with their Souls of Mischief remake ‘Till The Wheels Fall Off’ in 2006 (on Rawkus Records, no less). That didn’t really get them anywhere, so they came back on some Hipster shit with throwback 80′s beats for the second album with stuff like ‘Driving Down The Block’, before deciding to do jump on Drake’s jock with fruity ‘feel-good’ songs like ‘Take Over The World’ from last years Land Of Make Believe LP. Did they sell-out on their original formula because they weren’t moving the units they needed to, or did they suddenly have the courage to make soft-ass songs once they saw the positive public reaction to Drizzy?
Not to say that anybody is asking rappers to keep making the same album, over and over again (unless you’re Too $hort, where anything else would be uncivilized), but are you rapper dude’s so incredibly insecure that you don’t feel comfortable releasing music in 2010 that doesn’t include auto-tune on your raps or a ‘throw ya lighter up’ keyboard beat? Worried that other rappers will point and laugh at you in the street if you don’t feature at least 40% of your album attempting to sing poorly? Concerned that chicks won’t dance to your song in the club if you don’t have tiny drum machine beats? By all means get paid, but try not to get played while you’re doing it. Oh yeah, and grow an effin’ pair of stones while you’re at it…