I’m not sure if hip-hop has ever really had issues with “selling out.”
The very notion of “selling out” achieves that which most of the people who make hip-hop, actually desire — crossing over, getting paid, becoming successful, being recognized.
In short: legitimacy, acknowledgement, knowing that what you have to say “matters.” Because so many rappers — but obviously, not all — come from environments in which they do not matter, where their voice is not important, where they can’t even buy anything, let alone sell something.
A big brand like Kit-Kat or Sprite wanting to involve a rapper in something, that just signals to the rapper — I’ve arrived.
In my mind, the concept of “selling out” is a holdover from a generation that no longer exists, and any time it’s mentioned, I tend to think of white rock n’ roll artists, many of whom — but obviously, not all — had the means and comfort, the privilege, to look at some commercial opportunity and think: I’m an artiste, and this is beneath me.
Maybe during a brief period — the early 90’s, for example — there was some question in a rapper’s mind about whether to “sell out” or not, but to me it always felt like something people in the underground were concerned with.
Critics, too. Critics and academics love themselves some “selling out” conversations. Hey, whatever works.
I’m just saying, the lens you are looking at things through is very important when you judge these things. And if you look at the history of hip-hop, you will see, almost every artist we know and love today has had some weird brand shit, some odd sponsorship contract, that they were at one point involved with.
In theory, we’ve actually come a long way. At least Chance is selling Kit-Kats and not St. Ide’s. I’m sure he enjoys a Kit-Kat or two on occasion. I know I do.