Most people are unaware to the world of underground rap, as the music is much less commercialized. However, for most underground rappers, that is the ideal situation. A large majority of these artists choose to abstain from signing to major labels as they feel they will be forced to make music that can be sold to larger crowds, which usually entails watering down what they feel is true hip-hop. Staying true to their beliefs about what hip-hop means to them, they capitalize on social media to reach out to their fans, making efforts to get themselves out there, all without the help of a major label. With the money these labels offer, it’s not unexpected to see once-underground artists become commercialized, changing their style of music to pander to a larger crowd. But for some, this route will never be suitable, and no amount of money can match the reward of staying true to their music.
Doing Music Their Way
Artists and groups such as Tech N9ne, Immortal Technique, Aesop Rock, and many others, continue to forge ahead by playing shows and releasing free mix tapes to their loyal fans, and they do so because they love their music, and they view hip-hop as an art. Many rap artists that are well known today were in the same position at one time or another. Even an artist like Nicki Minaj, who is considered a big hip-hop star now, was once at the bottom of the hip-hop totem pole. Yet after signing to a major label, her style of music was changed. Some fans may attribute this to an “exploratory” period in her career, but the music she makes now is commercialized and watered down, and hardly resembles the true nature of hip-hop that the underground is more accustomed to. Underground rappers who stay true to their values refuse to sell out in this way, as they feel it disrespects their fans, their virtues, and themselves. While money is appealing, nothing is as satisfying as making music that stays virtuous, and there will always be a fan base respectful of that fact.
Art & Hip-Hop
Yet the question remains, what does the future hold for underground rap artists? That may not be so clear, but there are underground artists who are making waves by doing what they love. In fact, each of the underground artists mentioned above have made multiple appearances at large music festivals such as Rock The Bells, simply be amassing a fan base that respects their fluency in hip-hop. While their songs may not be “radio appropriate”, and they may not be liked by larger crowds, they continue to make songs with thought-provoking lyricism and an array of complimentary beats, all in the name of supporting the values of hip-hop as they see it. In a world where music is art, no one can deny that these are true artists. Not only do they create works which captivate their fans, but they use their own tools and principles to do so, without the help of major record labels and their hundreds of production styles and musical softwares.
The Future Of The Underground
While there will always be commercialized hip-hop, the underground will stay strong. Many underground artists have too much respect for their views on hip-hop to turn their backs on their beliefs just to make money.
Author Byline: Marcus Holloway is a music writer based out of Seattle, Washington. He always calls a Stita Taxi when shuttling between live music venues.
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