It’s no secret that hip hop and rap have taken over with its explosive popularity and social prevalence. As the musical landscape of the 21st century is increasingly populated with mainstream hip hop, the heightened exposure of the genre has directed some listeners’ attentions to lower-profile artists of the underground hip hop scene.
Underground hip hop is generally associated with artists signed to independent labels that often rap about social-consciousness and anti-commercialism, but there is no single unifying theme that wholly describes all artists within the subgenre. In the new age of the internet, these artists often amass their followings through Soundcloud, Spotify, Youtube, and Bandcamp.
One Atlanta-based popular indie rap label that has been pumping out promising artists since 2012 is Awful Records. Started by Atlanta rapper Centel Orlando Magnum, known professionally as Father, while studying at Georgia State University, Awful Records is currently home to a collective of rappers, producers, and artists. Some notable acts are Danger Incorporated, Meltycanon, ABRA, and Playboi Carti, who is no longer signed to the label.
Outside of Atlanta, many underground/alternative hip hop artists have risen to considerable fame and notoriety for their subversive and unique takes on the genre. Death Grips, a hip hop duo from Sacramento, California, stands as one of the most elusive, yet attractive groups of the bunch. Having amassed nearly 11 million plays on Spotify of their most popular song, “Get Got”, it is clear that underground may be coming to the surface.
While in its infancy, rap itself was an underground genre, slowly rising to prominence through the past several decades, underground hip hop has flourished alongside it. Lyrics on the topic of oppression, racism, poverty, and the experiences of an infinitely diverse spectrum of artists set the tone of countless songs.
Aside from political consciousness, underground hip hop also deviates from the norm through the vast array of experimental production, beats, and rapping styles, allowing each artist to cultivate a distinctly personal sound. As rap takes over as the voice of a generation, be on the lookout for the ever-changing, intensely unique sound of underground hip hop.
Some Rap Songs (2018) – Earl Sweatshirt
Veteran (2018) – JPEGMAFIA
The Money Store (2012) – Death Grips
Aquemini (2008) – Outkast
Donuts (2006) – J Dilla
Madvillainy (2004) – Madvillain
The Unseen (2000) – Quasimoto
The Low End Theory (1998) – A Tribe Called Quest
Illmatic (1994) – Nas
Paul’s Boutique (1989) – Beastie Boys