The Hip Hop world has an incredible amount of branches that define the House, but one branch (and my favorite) is the Underground scene. However, defining “underground” isn’t so easy anymore simply because many artists who are unsigned or signed to independent labels are becoming mainstream names (aka Chance). I define “underground” as artists who fit the following criteria;
- Unsigned (by choice or not)
- Signed to an independent label
- Less than 300,000 subscribers on Youtube, or
- Music is more accessible through Soundcloud or Youtube
Now, keep in mind that lyrical content do often categorize artists, but I believe that a rapper can be “underground” and discuss politics or society just as a mainstream artist can (Kendrick). Because of this, I have a categorized some artists as “Culture”, which will be discussed in a future post.
Underground hip hop is exciting, it’s fresh and the music is meaningful usually because it comes from artists who come from the streets and spend the time developing their own sound because they aren’t constricted to major label requirements. For the listener, or at least for me, I find underground artists to be the best because I usually don’t have to share them with a major audience. Non-mainstream or underground music is like my own personal sound that I can selfishly keep until I decide to share it with my friends or to the world on social media.
Now, we need to discuss Chance the Rapper, because according to my definition of Underground Hip Hop, Chance is in fact in this category. However, Chance is changing that definition, he’s breaking the barriers within the hip hop world and as excited and proud of him that I am, i’m pissed off that I have to share him with everyone else following his Grammy win. He is the people’s sound now, his music is “not only released for free but released for freedom”.
If you didn’t know, Chance the Rapper survives off of merch and touring, as he doesn’t sell his music (currently) for profit, instead he releases mixtapes on Soundcloud and Datpiff. His exponential growth led to his 2017 Grammy nominations and 3 wins in Best New Artist, Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Album.