Hip hop has been blasting from car stereos and boomboxes since the 1970s. Today, mainstream hip hop artists such as Nelly, 50 Cent and Eminem are household names worldwide. But as in all music genres, there are sections that tend to cater for a smaller, more niched market and are kept underground.
Underground hip hop is an extension of the hip hop genre that does not conform to what is being done commercially.
The lyrics of artists who associate themselves with this genre tend to focus on social consciousness, positivity and honesty. These artists are either independent or signed to smaller labels which allow artistic freedom. Many of today’s best known hip hop artists (like De La Soul) once started out as part of the underground scene.
Unlike many mainstream hip hop artists, the underground scene strives for creativity and innovation. The cover art tends to reflect this, and not only acts as an illustration but also attempts to portray some sort of message. Artists aren’t afraid to experiment with different instruments and sounds. The track “Guess This” by Count Bass D and DJ Pocket is a good example of this. On this track, flutes and violins are used in an unexpected combination with the original rap sounds.
When it comes to clothing, even T-shirts become works of art. The brand Rockwell Clothing uses designs with odd combinations, such as human legs, birds and fruit. This might sound like a strange fruit salad, but it is certainly one of the most interesting pieces of clothing out there.
The inherent “newness” of the underground is what draws so many to this branch of hip hop. Even self-proclaimed hip hop haters might find something they like here. And if you aren’t quite ready to announce your new found love for hip hop, you can always keep it underground.