Hip-hop culture has influenced America’s youth and college students since the 1990s. It did so in providing outlets for specifically African-American youth to speak their minds in forms of rhythmic speech. Though the main demographic for rap artists is African-American, rap has found a suitable home in the hearts of other ethnic groups around the world.
Under the huge umbrella of hip-hop are many types of rap, including dirty south rap, gangsta rap, jazz rap, Latin rap, East and West Coast rap and underground rap. The underground community is a home for rappers that are more independent and not specifically looking for the attention and limelight a major label could offer them. It is a way for new artists to write music as opposed to selling LPs all around the globe; they sell, or even give away, mixtapes from a collection.
Current popular rappers today have found a niche in the underground community before they went big like A$AP Rocky, Schoolboy Q, Kendrick Lamar, Big K.R.I.T and Tech N9ne. Top Dawg Entertainment, an American independent label that was established in 2004, has helped artists achieve platinum status, representing artists like Schoolboy Q, Lamar and Ab Soul.
There are underground rappers who are popular but would not be considered mainstream like Ab Soul and Chance the Rapper. These artists’ powerful lyrics and authenticity have outshined a lot of today’s mainstream artists. Chance the Rapper released his 2013 mixtape “Acid Rap,” which was acknowledged with a nomination from the BET Hip Hop Awards for Best Mixtape. “Acid Rap” received at least 800,000 downloads.
Mike Casson, sophomore, commented on Ab Soul saying, “Ab Soul is truly a wordsmith. He utilizes clever wordplay and has several different flows and style that incorporates into his music. I own all of his discography.”
There has been some clashing between underground rappers and mainstream rappers over who really represents the art form of hip-hop. Underground rappers believe that they are more real and true to the genre whereas mainstream rappers are stuck in a constant monologue about sex, drugs and alcohol. Underground artists tend to put their focus toward more detrimental issues like abuse, depression, war, poverty, family struggles and politics.
“I listen to underground rap because I prefer the raw sound of uninhibited lyrics as opposed to what the mainstream artists release to make sales. Underground rap is where the real passion is," Casson said. "Talent lies in the genre of hip-hop. The artists are very competitive to be the best they can be.”
Underground rap has evolved as much as other genres but one thing that holds true is that the rappers have nothing holding them back. Though artists in this community might not be mainstream artists or even want to achieve that status, the community is still an undeniably prodigious outlet for poets around the world.