The history of Hip-Hop is full of artists who started off doing a certain kind of rap and ended up doing something totally different and mainstream. In a way, you can’t fault some of these rappers because they are often just trying to increase their fan base and take their careers to the next level. But even with that said, there are some cases of rappers selling out that are on the borderline of being inexcusable. It’s okay to evolve, take risks and try different things, but it’s another thing all together when they trade their integrity and innate musical sensibility in exchange for mainstream appeal. No artist wants to ever look like they’re pandering or trying too hard, and for the ones that do, they are often labeled as sellouts. Ultimately, no one can really judge these artists – it’s a choice they decided to make and we all must choose our own paths in life. But even so, we compiled a list of 10 instances in Hip-Hop where artists were labeled as sellouts. Take a look below:
Big Daddy Kane Posing For Playgirl Magazine
In the late 80’s and early 90’s, NYC rapper Big Daddy Kane was one of the biggest names in the Hip-Hop game. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that he was sort of like the Drake of his era – except that he had way more street cred than the Toronto-based rapper. But that still didn’t stop him from making one of the biggest gaffes in his career. He was approached by Playgirl magazine in 1991 to do an editorial shoot and he actually said yes. As a Hip-Hop emcee, an alarm should go off in your head whenever someone offers you a check to strip your clothes for a photo-shoot. But at that point, his ego got in the way and he actually did it. That will forever be considered one of the biggest sellout moments in rap.
Mary J Blige Burger King Commercial:
Mary J. Blige may not be a rapper but she is definitely known as the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. Actually, one of her biggest tracks that started her career off was the mega-single “All I Need” featuring Method Man. Throughout her career, she has done songs with other Hip-Hop icons like Nas, Jay-Z and 50-Cent. That’s why it was so disturbing to her fans and the Hip-Hop community as a whole when she did an ad for Burger King singing about “Crispy Chicken” and the different ingredients in the BK sandwich. The outrage was so strong that the ad was immediately yanked from the Burger King YouTube channel, but that didn’t stop the fallout. She probably got a big paycheck to do it, but the execution of it was quite deplorable. One thing is for sure, she’ll never do anything like that in her career again.
Dr Dre’s Dr Pepper Ad:
The Hip-Hop world has its own version of a striped unicorn – i.e. a myth that will never come true. That unicorn is the Detox album from music mogul and West Coast legend Dr. Dre. It has been rumored to be in the offing for about a decade or so. We all know that Dr. Dre is a perfectionist when it comes to his studio work, but at this point, most fans have just given up on ever receiving it. That’s why it was like adding insult to injury when Dr. Dre appeared in a Dr. Pepper commercial in 2009 and allegedly played a song from the highly anticipated album at the end of the ad spot. First of all, the ad was pretty cheesy and fans felt that Dr. Dre just took a big check to tease them even more about an album he was never going to drop. But hey, he’s almost a billionaire now due to his Beats by Dre headphones, so he’s the one laughing to the bank.
Flavor of Love on VH1:
It’s hard to believe that the Flavor of Love reality TV series was even a thing. But if you remember correctly, it was quite a phenomenon and Flavor Flav was one of the biggest personalities in pop culture at the time. Actually, it’s not surprising at all that this show aired on VH1, because when it comes to down to it, they are the best in the business at airing the trashiest programs. What makes this show such a huge Hip-Hop sellout moment is Flavor Flav, Chuck D and what their seminal group Public Enemy stood for in the late 80’s and early 90’s. They were the vanguard of social activism and music with a really positive message. So to see him go from doing that to acting the way he was in Flavor of Love was very disappointing indeed. Sometimes, it’s not all about the money.
Memphis Bleek’s Garnier Fructis Ad:
There are some Hip-Hop sellout moments that are just embarrassing, but then there are others that are corny, cheesy and totally unbelievable. This following one certainly ranks in the latter category. Brooklyn rapper Memphis Bleek was supposed to be the designated heir to Jay-Z’s throne. He was featured heavily on Jay-Z’s earlier albums and they were both from the same Marcy projects. He has enjoyed some decent success over his career, but never reached the heights he was expected to get to. All of that led up to him shocking the entire rap world when he appeared in a Garnier Fructis commercial in 2010 rapping about shampoo. This was a guy who used to rhyme about the hardscrabble street life of inner-city Brooklyn, and now he was rapping about shampoo bubbles?! Come on Mr. Bleek, that’s just not acceptable at all!
Black Eyed Peas adding Fergie and going Pop:
There is no other group in the history of rap that started as one thing and deviated off the path so hard to become something totally different and watered down. When the Black Eyed Peas first dropped their debut album on Interscope records titled Behind The Front in 1998, there were an artistic, unique trio. They continued their elevation with their second album Bridging the Gap in 2000. But then in 2002, the group added a pop singer named Fergie to the mix and when their Elephunk album dropped in 2003, they had become a completely different pop-themed outfit. The rest is history and they went on to become one of the biggest groups in the world. But one thing is for certain, they lost a huge portion of their core fans by selling out and deciding to become a mainstream group.
Leprechaun In The Hood movie feat. Ice-T:
These days Ice-T is seen as a serious actor because of his long-running role as a detective on the much-loved NBC cop drama: Law & Order: SVU. However, there was a time when Ice-T was a stone-cold gangsta rapper trying to transition into acting. During this transition period, there are some roles that he’d really like to forget about. One of them was the 2000 Horror/comedy Leprechaun: In The Hood. The storyline of the film is utterly ridiculous; 3 Los Angeles rappers accidentally free a Leprechaun that was imprisoned by a record producer named Mac Daddy (played by Ice-T). After that, the Leprechaun goes on somewhat of a killing rampage to try to find his magic flute. We’ll just stop there, because you can probably already tell that it gets worse. Isn’t it amazing the projects people will do once someone pulls out a check book?
Jay-Z “Sunshine” feat. Babyface & Foxy Brown
Jay-Z’s debut album Reasonable Doubt came out in 1995 and it was an instant street classic that established him as a lyricist and possible candidate for NYC’s new Hip-Hop King. Capitalizing on the success of his debut album, he reloaded quickly in 1997 with his second album In My Lifetime Vol 1. Most of his new fans were expecting the same gritty hardcore feel from the album but he threw them a curve ball when he released a pop sounding track as the second single titled “Sunshine.” The song was obviously meant for radio and mainstream appeal. It featured Babyface and Foxy Brown and the video was bright and glitzy with Jay-Z wearing bright colored suits. It was huge miscalculation, because the single wasn’t received with open arms. For many Hip-Hop fans at that time, it was a bold attempt at selling out, but luckily, his fans stuck with him. And hey, look where he’s at now.
Pitbull Selling Out:
Nowadays when you think of Pitbull, you think of the slickly-dressed Miami rapper who dresses up in tailored suits, plays to sold-out global venues, appears on Shark Tank and knocks out hit-songs with Ne-Yo. But when he first started out, he was a hardcore street rapper representing the streets of Miami. He was actually affiliated with Lil Jon, and most of his initial songs were over the Atlanta producer’s beats. But he saw the light in 2009, and made a definite turn towards making more mainstream, radio-ready singles. In 2011, he released the song “Give Me Everything” featuring Ne-Yo and Afrojack. It became a global #1 hit and after that Pitbull was sold out to the mainstream forever.
Cam’ron’s Pink Fur Coat & Pink Range Rover:
In the early 2000’s, Cam’ron and his rap crew The Dip Set were one of the strongest rap movements in New York City. Their crew had an abundance of notable characters including Jim Jones, Juelz Santana and Freeky Zeekey. They were known for their hardcore music, their brash behavior and their flashy style of dress. However in 2002, the group’s leader Cam’ron pushed things a little too far when he adopted the color pink as his favorite color. He bought himself a pink Range Rover and even got a matching pink fur coat and head band. Around the time, everyone thought that he was just trying to be different and unique, but in retrospect, it was one of those situations when all the fame and money was starting to go to his head.