How Much A Dollar Cost?: On Selling Out
By Jaylin Paschal
RUN DMC's hit song, "My Adidas," bridged hip hop and commercialism like we'd never seen before. We have music business mastermind Russell Simmons to thank for forever changing our complex corporate/cultural opinion on how businesses and artists work together. Hip hop's corporate imprint didn't, of course, stop deepening there. Gap's 1999 ad featuring LL Cool J was a huge success, Drake's 2010 Sprite commercial ran for years, and the trend continues on today.
Of course, it's important to note that these moments are not always successful or well-received. Mary J. Blige's 2012 Burger King commeicial was so disastrous that Burger King pulled it from YouTube almost immediately and Dr. Dre teaming up with Dr. Pepper was one of the corniest links in recent memory. And we can't forget that Flavor of Love happened, as much as we may want to. But these outliers aside, the modern trend has been acceptance of commercial collaborations.
It used to be that in pop culture even simply licensing your song to a commercial made you a sell out. But now, large endorsement deals and corporate collaborations are embraced, especially in hip hop.
This change of perception is a trend not only in hip hop or popular music--and in fact, not even exclusive to music. Once, selling your novel to made into a movie had you dubbed a sell out. But now, even our literary heroes like Paulo Coelho have work printed on the back of Chipotle bags. And it is almost customary for books that read "New York Times #1 Bestseller" to also read "Now A Major Motion Picture."
Generally speaking, we're over corporate compromise. We usually even celebrate our favorite artists getting deals with large companies. There's been a shift, and it's been clear. Today, what gets us more riled up than anything is what we perceive as compromise of character or morals.
Here's where you can imagine all the bitter Instagram posts of Kimye captioned "And then he get on, and leave yo ass for a white girl."
Kendrick Lamar has pursued several business ventures including working with American Express and Reebok and his fans have been overwhelmingly supportive. But imagine if he had joined forces with the Trump campaign. Or imagine if, instead of President Obama's inauguration Beyonce had performed at President Elect Trump's. I myself remember feeling conflicted by Hov's campaigning for Hillary Clinton. Remember our reaction to Lil Wayne's black lives matter remarks? Remember our reaction to Stacey Dash's acceptance of Fox News' token role? And finally, I ask you to recall one of my most painful memories of watching our friend Kanye West transition from "Bush doesn't care about black people" to "I would've voted for Donald Trump."
The new "Sell Out" has less and less to do with monetary exchange--and more to do with ethical trade off. And that, more than anything, is what it means to sell your soul.