Rap: Underground as a Financial Status
Underground hip-hop displays Darwin's Survival of the Fittest as it shares the same environment with the likes of Cash Money and No Limit Records. While underground music is more of a style, it's slowly becoming a financial status.
It seems as if an emcee loses all credibility if his paycheck from his record label can pay his month's rent. He becomes commercial, a total sellout. It's amazing how people can call anyone with more than enough cash to support himself a sellout. A sellout is more like someone who alters what they do in exchange for fame and fortune.
A prime example: Q-Tip. You all know he was dope on A Tribe Called Quest, but when Amplified hit... well it hit, and that was about all. The best emcees defined as sellouts are the ones who just stop focusing on the talent aspect, and concentrate more on pleasing suburban white kids. A club hit is all right, but when you make those same types of songs over and over, and then claim it's hip-hop, something is wrong!
Now, on commercialism. It's different than selling out. Cash Money never sold out. They've been making catchy hooks and booty (pun intended) videos the whole time. They've rocked iced out chains since day one. They've always been about the money. Does that make it easily acceptable? Oh, no, not even close. They don't really love hip-hop, but more of what they get from hip hop, like money from their multi-million dollar deal with Universal. They were no names for years, but did they say, "I wanna change hip hop."? No, they said, "We need to make this money." They have no idea how much the culture is valued to underground heads, whose only form of expression is with a mic. They just want to make the extra dollar. Stop giving them money, and you know they'll go right back to 'thuggin' and selling their necklaces...
Let's find an example. Who has money but didn't sellout? One person has money, never sold out in the slightest: Rakim, hip-hop's Godfather. He has his own clothing line, his own music videos, record sales, a website, and he still can lay down ill lyrics on a track.
Another example that many would not agree with is LL Cool J. Believe it or not, he loves hip-hop. He also loves women, so he chooses to rhyme about it. The truth is, he rhymes about women because that's what MCs did it for in the beginning. They would rhyme, and get a girl's attention. It worked for LL. In his book, I Make My Own Rules, LL describes the events of when he got blowjobs before every live performance. The guy rhymes about women, has an expensive necklace, and endorses a clothing line. Is he a bad MC because he's a successful man?
Every MC reaches a point where they are undeniably good, and the rest is on the listener. But by the looks of the ridiculous opinions, underground isn't a style, it's a monetary status.