June 4 1996

What constitutes a sellout in hip hop?.. There's a whole lotta talk about successful artists like the Fugees..being labeled sell outs because they've managed to garner some mainstream appeal. A lot of artists ranging from Hammer to LLCool J have experienced this..I always found this to be puzzling...Why can't a hip hop artist experiment with his sound? Make money? and have some success within the mainstream? With so many folks outside of hip hop making money off hip hop..shouldn't the artist who help create the scene be allowed to enjoy some finacial rewards without criticism from their fans..? So what constitutes a sell out within hip hop?

What Constitutes a Sell Out Within Hip Hop?

Hey Davey,

I'm glad somebody had the gut's to say what you said about rappers being labeled a sellout. My definition of sellout,is someone who does what someone else want's them to for money without regard for their conflicting interests.

Ervin Johnson

A Sell Out is someone who turns their back on real Hip Hop to make their own pockets fatter. Guy's like LL and the Fu-gees are experimenting with Hip Hop, but always represent Hip Hop. Guy's like Hammer who make pop bullshit, get the loot, then try to come back inside Hip Hop when they realise they turned their backs on the realness, are sellouts. If rappers wanna start out pop, thats fine, but they start out hardcore then switch when the money ain't right could seriously damage Hip Hops image.

Cafe Roslin

Dear Dave.

A sell-out is a person who is wack, and then tries to be different to hide that fact. That's a guy like Justin Warfield. You know the guy who claimed he was on LSD and used all acid-jazz stuff, when really he had weakest flow in years. Same thing with Kwame, the polka-kid, he was weak and now he's gone. When you try to expand the boundries of hip-hop, but can't rock the mic, in a hard-core style you're a sell-out.

Guru did some really great things for hip-hop with Jazzmatazz, but he can still hold his own on the mic so he can never sell-out. However all the artists who came after him with the live-jazz are really just using it as a gimmick. Unless they prove that they are true mic-wreckers they should be looked upon as sell-out.

Jazz is just one gimmick. There are many others like: Playing Parliament-Funkadelic as a hook, in all your songs. Wearing stupid cloths.
Being white (this is actually the most common one, whites who claim they're dope, but sound like Grampa Simpson reciting the alphabet).
Being a gangsta, hooker, gambino, player, hustler, mack, etc...without any real lyrical substance.
Trying to fuse hiphop with other forms of music, and still claimin it's original hiphop.
Using words like iggedy in every sentence, or rhyming in spanglish.

All these things will be fully accepted if only you're a dope rhyme sayer. The Fu-gees will be accused of selling out because they sing. But at the end of the day Lauren can still give a verbal ass-wipping, so it's just a matter of time before they go back underground.

In conclusion I'd like to say: if you don't have any skill keep out of the bussiness, because some day the heads will discover how doo-doo you are. For God's sake just look at Bone-frogs N harmony, PMD, Da Brat, and all of those RnB rappers. I predict that guys like BIG, AZ and such and such, will be looking for jobs in a few years, while KRS One, Ras Kass, Chino Xl, Kool Keith, and King Tee will be rhyming till they die or get threatened out of the bussiness by some of these so-called gangstaz (read SCC, BG Knocc Out, Jayo Felony, Quik) who are scared people might not want to hear about guns and hoes for the rest of their lives!!!

One Love - Denmark massive!

@-douple aka duke bootee jr
Peter Trier Aagaard-Jensen

First of all, f'all ya'll who are now dissin' da fugees cuz they sold millions! who knew killin me softly would blow up! it's not like the rest of the album is remake! everyone true wanted to buy the fugees joint the first week it came out! i did before even fugee-la came out - how many mics, ready or not, cowboys, the score, etc. - do i need to say more. Anyway - a sell out is someone who changes their artform to appeal to the public or the current trend of popularity - especially if they bite someone else's style - or no how to sell on their second album! Anyway - all ya'll out there should no what's real and what ya should pick up! that's why you'll never catch me watchin' music videos or listenin to tha radio! hang out and a small-time record store and peep what ya need to hear and then pick it up! peace out!

JP Bungard

People are just jealous because they aren't where these successful artists are, so to make themselves feel better, they label sucesses "sellouts." I truly believe Tupac Shakur is a sellout because we all know that before he went to jail, he said that all the stuff he talks about in his music is a front and he knows that that is what makes money, but when he got out, he was talking about thuglife forever!!To top that off, the majority of the things he talks about, he's never done!!----------SELLOUT-------------


I don't think artists like the Fugees are sellouts just 'cuz they are makin' dollars, but an artist like Hammer, Coolio, and other artists that make songs just to get videoplay on MTV, BET etc., the are sellouts. Also, when Blastmasta KRS-One, did his Nike commercial, I don't think he sold out because like Yo-Yo said in the source, back in the 80's, everyody was wearin' Adidas and there was Kris sportin' his Nike's, so Nike is just payin' him back.


To me a sellout is someone who will change his/her style to fit the new wave. Like Coolio does he sound the same as he did with the Mad Circle? Doub-C didn't make dance music so why does Coolio now?


I think that a sellout is not an artist or a group of artists who make money, have mainstream popularity, or even target a mainstream audience. A sellout is someone who is not himself...someone who alters his goals and ideals for the sole purpose of gaining money, success, or popularity. A sellout is also someone who doesn't acknowledge the people who have contributed to his or her success...someone who denies or forgets his roots.



What constitutes a sellout? Well, I could sit here and get super analytical and break down certain areas and characteristics of a "SELLOUT". But who fuckin' cares anymore? I DO!

I have read a million fuckin' reviews and opinions and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah............

Opinions. It seems as if every Hip Hop Head (or these fake ass wannabeez) want to shove and cram "their" opinion(s) down everybody's throat. There will never be a universal consensus on a true definition. Why? Because people can't even agree on what real HIP HOP is!

One person says the West Coast sound, rhymes and lifestyle are HIP HOP and the other person says Southern Fried Funk/Players Outta Tha South is true HIP HOP. While you got 20 other motherfuckers saying that Montell Jordan, Brandy, Total, blah, blah, blah is the real HIP HOP.

Who is to say what HIP HOP really is. I myself, hate motherfuckin R&B (Rap and bullshit). I love the original R&B sounds, when people would sing and create original music. Today we got a bunch of no talent singers wanting to incorporate that HIP HOP sound into their tracks and lifestyle. I remember when all of the world, including R&B folks, dissed HIP HOP and said this shit would die. But now every R&B song has got some rappers all up in their shit. The new generation of kids comin up think this is true HIP HOP. And not just kids but adults too are being brainwashed. If you put some Eric B. & Rakim on the set these people would ask, "what is this shit, I can't dance to it, and they are talkin all complicated, just sing and throw out some old kindergarten rhymes out there, you know, so you can shake dat ass and enjoy the music. Gimme a beat that is cool and catchy".

I hear shit today that was straight ripped off from classic HIP HOP cuts from the 80's & 90's. These fuckin people listening to this shit think it is all new. R&B ain't diggin too far in the crates. Just walking into Blockbuster and picking up some HIP HOP CD's (cuz it would be too much work to find some vinyl and turntables) and ripping off total HIP HOP jams. Motherfuckers out here don't even know. Guess what some of these people could give a fuck less about HIP HOP but they wanna have an opinion about THE REAL HIP HOP.


Please take me back when HIP HOP was broke. That's sounds crazy right. Fuck no it does not. When money was not the catalyst of HIP HOP. That was when shit was creative. I know, creative to everybody is sellin 2,000000000000000000000000000 motherfuckin albums and every little white kid singing your songs at school and telling their little devil friends that rap is cool, you know like Snoop Dog and Dre and Bone and LL Cool J and Fugees and Coolio and Brandy and Kriss Kross and 69 Boyz and blah, blah, fuckin blah. Then they turn around and call the black man a nigger and laugh with their dads, granddads, uncles and family friends. Stereotyping the black man as a rapper. A drug dealing, drive by shooting, bitch killer. But they love dat Snoop Dog. Keep dancing and singing for us, nigger!

Sellouts come in all shapes and sizes. Not just R&B. Don't fucking sell out the most inovative music of all time. Give some respect to the pioneers. People fuckin died so HIP HOP could grow. Quit representin your pockets!

what happened to our music?
Chris Teate

A lot of critics say that just because a rapper makes a lot of money by selling records, he/she has sold out. Though I don't find pleasure in listening to multi-platinum albums, sometimes the artist did not change his or her style to gain the mass appeal. Like Too Short (though I don't really enjoy his music a lot), I give him mad respect because he has sold millions, without ever changing his rapping style or beat styles. People dig his slow, laid back delivery; it's not like he changed his voice or started rapping slowly to appeal to the herds and masses.

But there are some SeLLOuTs that did change their styles: Hammer, Vanilla Ice Cream, in order to appeal more to the sucka schools of fish (the mainstream crowd). Though the FuGees did seem to change their style a little, I gave a little listen and heard that on some tracks they managed to keep the rhyming true to Mother hip-hop. Don't U think the Fugees worked hard enough to deserve the recognition & money they have now?! I read that they had been together since their early teen years! and now they're about in their 20's- THEY'VE BEEN TOGETHER LONGER THAN A LOT OF SOME OTHER WACK CREWS AND GROUPS.

And BUSTA RHYMES! That "Its a Party" track with Zhane seems like the work of a sellout, BUT THAT'S NOT A SELLOUT!, THAT'S BUSTA RHYMES!! The LONS worked their butts off and I think they deserve some fame and fortune and airplay. I have MMAAADDD respect for the artists that HUMBLED THEMSELVES, like Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, LONS, etc...THEY deserve the millions and the recognition and fame from the public. But I'm sure they won't be disappointed if they don't get the mass exposure, because they have already shown their success in the Underground- which was probably their goal anyway.

In essence, a Sellout= someone who has changed their natural styles, like dying hair to look blond or some other color. Sellouts change their styles into another one which they hope will appeal to a certain group of people. A girl might stuff her trainer bra with Kleenex to appeal to the jock football players and basketball players, now wouldn't everyone agree that doing that is straight up whacked like a whiskey soaked pinata? Rap sellouts change what they rap about, how they rap, or their image in order to appeal to: the mainstream, or the hardcore headz, possibly the senior citizens. Possibly laxative takin-tampon applicatin- pre-menopause middle aged feminine abortion activists?

Anyway, SELLOUTS TRY TO METAMORPHOSIZE AND FIT IN WITH A CERTAIN CROWD OR AUDIENCE. If my opinions haven't made any point, try listening to Gang Starr's "Mass Appeal" or INI's "Fakin Jax" or DeLa's "Stakes is High." Perhaps those songs will clarify any foggy shit I've been lettin out.

Peace out, Karl Pacho--TTWIZ Lo-Key (I'm NOT a DJ. Turntable wizard-I'm not braggin, but I don't jock NO disks for no whack requesters.) I'm using my sisters Internet access, so I don't know what to do if you want to respond to my manifesto. But your Hip-hop-Web-shit is fresh outta the horse's ass. Dope like crack. Stupid-fat like Roseanne. I'm outta here like a javelin spear. PEACE.

This is a hard question to answer, especially in general terms. Why was Heavy D. Never considered a sell-out, but Kane was? Have Salt-N-Pepa sold out? In many ways, a sell-out is one who stops being true to something in order to make a buck. Hammer first came out seeking to be a real Hip Hop artist, dissing Run-DMC and the whole nine yards. Next, we see him use a hit Rick James instrumental and go completely commercial, no longer dissing Run-DMC, but instead challenging Michael Jackson in a dance contest. Huh? Now we see him going gangsta and then back to his MC Holy Ghost roots.

On the other hand, Heavy D. & The Boyz dropped classics like, "The Overweight Lover," and "Mr. Big Stuff," which also used a hit instrumental AND the chorus, but it worked because younger kids never heard the original, or forgot about it. So, when Heav dropped, "Somebody For Me," with Al B. Sure, why wasn't this a sell-out? Because, Heav also dropped, "Don't You Know," on his first album and always rode the line of street and commercial. It wasn't something out of line for him to do; in fact, it was expected.

I guess the same could be said for Kane, but people took his, "'Til The Day You're Mine," as a one time MC Shan type track. It was, "Raw," and, "Set It Off," that caught people's attention, so when he dropped more smooth stuff later, he "sold-out." I won't mention much about LL because a lot of animosity towards him comes from jealousy. LL is the ultimate artist because no one has been able to adapt over time and change as he has and he has a large ego that he has always been able to back up, ala KRS-One.

In the end, Hip Hop is a big business now and artists have to do what they can to make that money, since it is their job today, unlike before. The whole spectrum of Hip Hop is so changed today that it's sad to see what Hip Hop grew from is now sometimes considered sell-out. Today, Whodini would be sell-outs. "Rock Box" is sell-out. Roxanne Shante's duet with Rick James on, "Loosey's Rap," is sell-out. I think the term definitely has some meaning, but back in the day there was 'fresh' and 'booty' followed by 'dope' and 'wack.' Today it's 'sell-out', 'hardcore,' and 'real.' Times have changed.

SHYGUY Productions

Anyone who blows up off of one of their albums, and then changes their music to become more mainstream and sell more records. Examples of this are Coolio, Hammer, Marky Mark, Vanilla Ice, and Kriss Kross. Selling out can either be starting out harcore and then going pop for more mainstream appeal, or starting out pop and then going harcore for more street credibility.

Mike Burke

I agree with Davey D. Ask yourself this - if a large corporation came to YOU tommorow and said they would pay you $250,000 to do about 2 days worth of work to help promote a product would you say no? Hell no - you'd piss in your pants and say "where do I sign". KRS just did some TV commercials and now people are sayin he's sellin out. I say he's cashing in on all the years he put into his art and deserves to get as much as the market is willing to pay for that kind of status.

- Studio Don<

There has been so much talk concerning Sell-outs. However, in my opinion, the only true hip hop sellout is someone who comprimises their belief to please the white public. There has been so much talk concerning Coolio, but in reality he has stayed true to his roots and his albums contain much deeper material than his pop singles. Even Mc Hammer leaping and frolicing like a faggot frog for KFC didn't strike me as "coonish" MC Hammer's inital beliefs were having fun and dancing and he has stayed true to it.

John Trotman aka Dymond J

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