DON’T CALL THEM A SELLOUT… OR ARE THEY?
“TRUTHFULLY I WANNA RHYME LIKE COMMON SENSE, BUT I DID 5 MIL, I AINT BEEN RHYMING LIKE COMMON SINCE” – JAY-Z
What do you consider a sellout? For years this debate has plagued the thoughts of many. What happens when your favorite athlete, actor or musician elevate to mainstream status? Often, we see them act different, dress different and even date different. What conflicts my thoughts the most when it comes to “selling out” is the idea that when you elevate professionally, it’s only natural that you change the things around you personally. While many talented Black and Brown artists cross the threshold between famous public figure to mega star, they are often met by their core fans with judgment or fear the thing that made them so relatable, becomes the very thing they reject as they climb the industry’s latter of success.
Afterall, fans wouldn’t be wrong for questioning whether an artist is still for the people. History has shown us that once our faves reach a certain level of success their art and persona changes right along with their status. One would argue that Kanye West is a prime example of this, Kanye went from rapping about his mother being arrested for participating in sit-in’s on “The College Dropout” to bleached a**holes in “Life of Pablo”. Most recently, reggaeton artist Bad Bunny has received backlash from his Latino fan-base for rumored relationship with Kendall Jenner. A model whose family not only has been accused of cultural appropriation, but she herself has participated in some questionable business moves. From playing lead in a Pepsi commercial that had her as the hero during a protest, to having a Tequilla brand in which has created some controversy because she isn’t a part of the Latin community.
For fans, who have the same humble beginnings and belief systems as our favorite artists, the disappointment that comes after supporting them for years, can hit hard emotionally. It also perpetuates the cycle of feeling like “we can’t have nothing.” And while there was a time where Black and Brown artists couldn’t enter some of the spaces, they’re now in. And racism played a huge part in how they were acknowledged, they still seek validation from the other side. All while becoming a commodity. These artists become a product marketed to mainstream-white audiences. Bad Bunny who has used his music as activism for Puerto Rico, recently sat down with Time Magazine in which he teetered between compromising his values and also remaining who he is at his core. Since the rumored relationship with Kendall Jenner hit the media, his fans have jokingly started to call him “Ben” instead of his real name “Benito”.
For artists like Kanye and Bad Bunny, challenging the status quo is no surprise. No matter how relatable they might’ve seemed, they were still considered “different” to their respective communities. Bad Bunny challenged the Latino community’s idea of masculinity and Kanye challenged the idea of what a rapper was supposed to look like. Although some things may change about the artists, many could argue that they’re exactly who they’ve always been. The wave makers. The ones who beat to their own drum no matter the cost. The real question lays in if we as fans can accept the artists for who they truly are, even if it doesn’t always align with who we know them to be.