Bob Marley comes across as the ultimate musical rebel, though everyone—from American frat boys to Malian army officers—loves his music. Wildly successful, Marley is an enigma: Someone who managed to put obscure local music on the world map; who turned a marginalized community (Rastafarians) into admired trendsetters; who remained a humble barefooted guy even when tooling around in a BMW; who sold a boatload of records by sticking to his guns and making his music, his way. How did he do it?
He didn’t. Marley sold out.
Before you protest, think about it. Imagine, for a second, that a major figure in a subcultural movement—Minor Threat/Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye of the U.S. hardcore punk scene, let’s say—joined forces with a mainstream hip hop producer like will.i.am, and made a really great record that stayed on the charts for eons and moved units in the gazillions. Though some die-hard fans might scream that he’d sold out, he would have transformed the musical landscape.