No Sell Out

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…

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whF3HUO92KQ hippaToDaHoppa

    Best blog I’ve read in a looong time, excellent job.

  • Chase

    …or you can not listen to them at all dumbass

  • http://www.ahmedhoke.com/ Hunnit Thousand Seminar

    I believe 2 Pac said it best, “Make music for the bitches, cause the niggas follow what the bitches like”.

    Or something like that.

  • Ether

    Daammmmnnnnn (jeezy voice)

    Somebody pissed dis nigga da phuck off

  • David HussleSoft

    I would say that Wiz was growing as an artist 2006 was 5 years ago I believe he was still a teen so you will mostly like change styles from your teens into your 20′s. And as a teen your more impressionable especially to major label scrutiny.

    As for Kidz In The Hall I just saw a video with the producer Double-O where he explains they got away from samples because of clearence problems. Not to mention the fact that now that they dont use samples, the music can be used for tv programs on mtv vh1 etc so it gets them another check.

    If you want to see the video with Double-O its at Allindstrom.com

  • Hannibal Cannibal

    Or sellin out like the very magazine you work for who used to have innovative reporting that gave took over the disappointed Source readers and those who use to follow Rap Pages about 14 years ago but now is just a publicity vehicle for interscope. This whole blog is a fail since this dude is a white guy and the very consumer these black artists sell out to…then a few years later they become purists and feel they can tell people what’s what, always pickin on easy targets. The reason you even listen to Hip Hop is because someone sold out so they can catch your ear.

  • http://jam85.com BlackBoy

    Note to all rappers: stay broke re-doing shit that niggas was doing since “the Golden Era”, never find a new trend that you can comfortably fit into your arsenal, or Robbie won’t like you anymore

    • Don mcCaine

      or how about…

      dear rappers…don’t worry about what the “now” popular trends are, cultivate YOUR version of music, this is the reason fans connected to you in the first place.

      Bottom line, be a leader, and not a follower.

      Thanks,

      The $ykotic Don mcCaine

      Notice how I did it w/o alienating a group of people due to bias? You went straight at the OGs…not cool…search Wiz on XXL, them are his peers saying the same thing Robbie’s saying, not ol’ heads…

      • SBryNole

        Thank you, im 21 and still know you have to respect how hip hop started and what its meant for. Hip hop in it of itself is about being yourself and not selling out – MLK wanted a nation of leaders not mindless money seeking followers

  • Lumba

    Hahaha yo stop hating on robbie you obviously haven’t seen the genius that is unkut.com. Robbie these xxl readers are the wiz khalifa and wayne fans maybe this post would be better suited for unkut!

  • kill bill

    well he is right. that is why hip hop is dead. because of faggot fans that like wayne and wiz

  • caino

    If people start making music for the love of it again then this wouldnt be such an issue. Kids got shit mixed up nowadays with being popular/famous. Back in the day l made beats and spat a few freestyles for the love of the game, not with an eye on the prize to being famous.

  • Q461

    The problem is hip-hop is a business and niggaz gotta eat too. Its a thin line between keeping it real to your own style, and making some money from this rap game. And also, artists like to expand their sound and experiment, and this can sometimes alienate their original fan base, ( case in point Common’s Electric Circus record).

    Also the labels can sometimes try and manipulate you have to sound like whoever is hot at the moment so they can cash in. Always refreshing when an artist refuses and goes to war against the machine. Thats why I’ll always respect Tim Dog. Labels wanted him to grow a jheri curl because the West Coast was poppin and nigga was like hll no Fuck Compton. i dont agree with the Fuck Compton sentiment but I respect dude for holding his own and not becoming another puppet.

    I can defintely see Wiz changing a bit now that hes much more mainstream. I hope he can make a smooth transition from underground to major label artist but I have my doubts and think his style gonna change up yet again. I’m even more concerned with Curren$y..

    Niggaz want Kush and Orange Juice Wiz and Pilot Talk 1 and 2 Spitta….. not some creation Lyor or some other suit molded into what he thinks is the flavor of the moment. Lets hope for the best!

    • SBryNole

      Spitta wont sell out dont worry bout the JETS

      YEuhhhhh

    • Zulu1925

      Hip Hop started as something fun to do for the cool and the hip – a closed community looking for an outlet to entertainment. In the beginning, it was about being fly – who danced the best, who dressed the best, who was the best showman. Just about every song was about having a good time or how fresh that person was. The only thing serious in Hip Hop at that time was the dancing. Then as the scene grew, people recognized the opportunity to get a message out to the audience and MCing became more important, but when you list the 5 Elements of Hip Hop, dancing (B-Boying) is first. So, it’s amazing to me that so-called “Hip Hop purists” are fixated on the skill and dexterity of the MC when the dancers and the DJs who put together the beats to move the crowd were the first stars of the scene.
      With that said, when Hip Hop was still just for fun, you had rock music, funk, R&B, reggae, jazz and latin music all mixed-up and people were free to express themselves however they saw fit. When money started being made, like with any business, an expectation of consistency came with it – give me that same shit you gave me yesterday. Now, these “artists” have to conform to a specific construct or record labels won’t sign them. And, once they get on, if the artist deviates from that construct, they are branded a sellout in some circles, particularly by “Hip Hop purists.” What’s interesting about the complaints about someone selling out is that they invariably revolve around how wack the new music is because it’s different from what was expected – “Niggaz want Kush and Orange Juice Wiz and Pilot Talk 1 and 2 Spitta…” even if Wiz or Spitta isn’t in the same space or place to authentically deliver that voice and viewpoint anymore. Why do we expect people to remain the same or give voice to the person they USED to be? If you saw a 40-year old dude on the street in a Diadora or Troop jogging suit, a furry kangol and Cazals on you’d think he was a fool. But, that was the go-to ‘fit in ’85!
      This isn’t 1985 anymore. Hip Hop is a business. It’s not just for the cool and hip kids. There are very few reasons a business would choose to limit its potential for expanded demographics. As such, the labels sign and promote those artists that their constituency (the BUYING public) has shown that they will likely support. I personally like Curren$y and BOUGHT all of his available music on iTunes. But, as strong of an MC as he is, if he continues to cater to “Hip Hop purists” he’s going to be another in the long line of coulda beens. If ‘Muscle Car Chronicles’ progresses beyond “Hood Classic” status and sells a few hundred thousand, then record companies will actively search for, sign and promote 15 mu’fuckas in the same vein. But, I don’t see that happening because these “purists” download for free, burn the CD from their homie or otherwise cop their music without actually supporting the artists. So, if you are an MC who is trying to earn a living through Hip Hop, crossing over is your only hope so that you can actually “sellout” your initial shipment of records and you can “sellout” the venues you play on tour.

      • Q461

        “So, if you are an MC who is trying to earn a living through Hip Hop, crossing over is your only hope so that you can actually “sellout” your initial shipment of records and you can “sellout” the venues you play on tour.”

        This I agree with, the comment about me saying that we want “Kush and Orange juice Wiz and Pilot Talk Curren$y”, you obviously did not interpret correctly at all. I agree that we shouldn’t expect the exact same music from our artists when they can’t be expected to stay in that state of mind forever, but what I’m saying is if the music is quality, I will listen. If it’s garbage I won’t. It’s not about hip hop purist or selling out to me. it’s about dope music vs wack music. If Wiz makes a dance poppy record with Rihanna on the hook and a Neptunes beat that sounds forced and unatural, then thats what I won’t be checkin for. I gave Common a chance when he went experimental as well as 808s and heartbreak. i found those records interesting and respected those artists for pushing the limits artistically. Check out Q-tip’s Kamal the Abstract record for dope experimental hip-hop.Outkast has changed their style on every album and because the music is consistently dope, I’ve got no complaints. There is a HUGE difference between expanding your sound and experimenting and blatantly incorporating a style that you know doesnt fit your flow and overall sounds wack just to sell records. I’m not blaming the artists, everybody gotta get money, but this is the neverending dilema for hip hop artists.

        For the record I also BUY music and support the MC’s I love. Got all Curren$y’s shit, nothing downloaded all paid for. i defintely see his motives for going major again, but keep in mind he’s made about $750,000 since alignng with Dame through his albums and mostly touring. Thats great money for an indy artist and I’m sure he would have made more this year with 2 more records on the menu. Wiz made the bold move of touring solo and not with Drake, and cashed in. Black and Yellow just went double platinum. ( Although it has been sugggested that Wiz is an “astroturfed” artist and has had the machine behind him on the low for awhile)

        Not tryin to start an argument, and I agree with most of what you wrote. Just trying to clear up some misconceptions.

        By the way Muscle Car Chronicles was designed to be a fusion record with Spitta and Sean O Connell/ McKenzie Eddy, two indy rock/folk artists runnin with Dame. Not sure whats going to become of that template now that he’s on Warner, but this record wasn’t ever designed to be on that “Hood Classic” tip, just check the trailers.

        Respect.

        • Zulu1925

          @ Q461

          I appreciate the civility of this discourse. And, I think you did a good job clearing up the misconceptions I held regarding your initial post. I’ll still hold onto the belief that most “headz” don’t buy their music nowadays, they “acquire” it – but, as you stated, not ALL “purists” do so. I also liked your inclusion of OutKast as an act that has evolved musically that you still check for. But, you and I both know PLENTY of people whose response to the initial growth shown by OutKast, specifially 3 Stacks, was “He changed his name to what?! What the hell kinda name is Andre 3000? And, what the fuck is he wearing?! This fool thinks he’s in Parliament-Funkadelic. Wait – is this nigga SINGING?! Aww, HELL no! Badu done drove this fool crazy!” Then, these people stopped listening to OutKast’s music. At the end of the day, as you stated, we’re not very far apart at all. What I’m saying is: Don’t try to put music or artists in a box. Allow them to be natural, organic and unfettered. Give an evolved sound a true and fair ear, instead of dimissing it out of hand simply because it is different than what was expected – even if it IS a money grab. My favorite example of this is Roy Hargrove. He plays modern jazz to pay the bills, but RH Factor is a fusion of R&B, Jazz and Hip Hop and is argubly his “true” voice. All of his music is great, so I buy it. I don’t care that he’s “selling out.” Dude’s got to eat.

          Thanks for responding. Be well.

          • Q461

            No doubt man. Yo your Outkast example had me dying laughing. It’s soooo true lol. I agree with your entire post. Too many people cop free music. I support the artist. It’s refreshing to talk to another dude who shares those same hip-hop values.

            I just always get skeptical when dudes get in the position to make more money. It’s defintely a gamble on whether the music is going to be compromised and turned to crap, or expanded upon into further dopeness while keeping the integrity of the artist.

            Always down for a good civil conversation my dude. Peace and Be good as well.

  • http://www.bc-tw.blogspot.com bc-tw

    Never have truer words been typed in regard to your comments on Kidz. They came out the gate with some serious heat. Even The In Crowd was kind of dope to me. But then they came with that Land of Make believe nonsense that was neither a musical nor a lyrical improvement of their past work, and in the process they lost me and a bunch of other fans who didn’t like the direction they went in. Naledge still has bars but perhaps they need to branch out to work with other producers and Double-O needs to get off his DJ Premier kick where he wants to be the only person responsible for KITH beats. Just a suggestion…

  • theTRUTH

    Go ahead switch ya style up, and if they hate, then let them hate, but let the money stack up.

    Dude going pop, cause thats where the money at, ask Flo-Rida, Will I AM, Timbaland, dudes more pop than Britney Spears

  • http://facebook.comsearchLilRail LILRAIL

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  • http://www.soundcloud.com/crocker_man4 Crocker

    *Applauds* Way to speak from the heart like you got a pair.

  • SBryNole

    “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’?” –

    If youve really listened to all of Wiz’s mixtapes you would realize that wiz has always put out a mix of all three of these “genres” on his mixtapes. They all come out so close to each other as well that each one he shows his versatility. Admittedly his radio attention lately with the popularity of “Black and Yellow” is making it seem as if all Wiz does is Pop – hopefully Rolling Papers gives a different impression although the 1st single Roll Up doesnt seem to signify that (smh)

  • Niiiiice

    Wiz started puttin out mixtapes locally when he was 17/18, hes now 23…music evolves as well as people themselves!!! Thats how individuals become successful. Ask any serious company such as XXL who are trying to stay up with the current trends and who are hiring new talent. A core competency that each potential employee must have is ADAPTABILITY. Simply put, I wouldn’t call this “selling out,” but adapting and switchin up your style from time to time…by the way the mixtape “Grow Season” came out a looong time before the timeline you labeled him as a “tattooed stoner rapper” and “reinventing himself.” Please do better research next time BEFORE you sit down and begin to type.
    412 STAND UP

  • Mijo

    Hes a shitty rapper period no matter what beats he be pickin. Kidz in the Hall is the same very mediocre rappers that dont have much talent anyways. That fucking black and yellow song is so bad. How did it get popular and its liek a year old come on now people.

  • http://emceekeever.wordpress.com emceekeever

    emceekeever is definatly not a sell out.
    check out his work.

  • http://www.blacksinatra.com Black Sinatra

    If this isn’t the true and I’ve been saying the same shit! I’M SICK OF THESE RAPPERS ON BEATS WITH SHIT TO SAY AND RIDING THE NET MAN >>>WELL YOU KNOW LOL ! When EVERYONE IS READY TO HEAR REAL MUSIC THEN LOAD ME UP!!!!!! SALUTE #PINKELEPHANT