Underground Hip-Hop Decimates the Competition

If you were to turn on your radio right now and tune into your local rap station you would most likely be appalled. At least you should be. Unless you’re entranced by the recycled canned beats, meaningless lyrics performed by vapid rappers, redundant and monotonous mono-syllabic choruses, and subject matter as deep as puddle water then you’ll probably make a bee line for the tuning knob. I don’t think anyone would blame you. It seems that commercial hip-hop has been overtaken by unintelligent filth. Gone are the days of Tupac’s unabashed emotion. No longer do we feel the true grit and grime of Notorious B.I.G.’s drug and violence filled lifestyle. Even Outkast’s strict attention to form, content, and delivery has been buried under years of their own failed attempts at commercialized music. Rap’s legacy as a beautiful form of expressing true emotion, the legacy we once knew, is over. Or is it? Perhaps one must know just where to look. It may seem counterintuitive to bury your head in the ground to find art in its most beautiful form, but that is precisely where you will find it. There are people making inspired, intelligent, beautiful hip-hop. Seemingly possessed by the spirits of the legendary greats of the past, these artists seamlessly weave emotion, thought provoking lyrics, gorgeously crafted rhymes, and double and triple entendres into the sonic landscapes that fill every nook and cranny of the listeners mind. Hip-hop lives, and it also hides, deep in the underground. I know what you’re thinking. If these artists are so great, why aren’t they multimillionaires? Why aren’t they on the radio? Why doesn’t everyone know who they are? All excellent questions and I’m glad you asked them. Well, not really. The answer is a sad one. It is my misfortune that I must be the one to break the news to you. The human population, as a whole, is stupid. Sure, individuals are intelligent. Some are geniuses. But the majority of the human population would rather not have to think while they listen to music. The answer to all those questions is as simple as that. Most people would rather not have to use their minds. They listen to music so that they can close their eyes and sing along. Which I can understand. It’s a lot harder to sing along to delicately crafted complex verses about our government’s use of scare tactics to control the population than it is to repeat three or four words about “Superman dat hoe!” over and over and over and over. But that’s not me. I can’t do it. I can’t just turn my brain on and off like it had a switch. And I know that there are others like me. Other’s like Sage Francis, a renowned slam poet and rapper since the age of eight years old. For nearly a decade and a half Sage has been making thought provoking music, using his genius IQ and superior grasp of the English language to deliver a strong message to every single one of his listeners: Never stop questioning. Never stop thinking. Never stop dreaming. Though he’s won several battle contests and has released a plethora of successful hip-hop albums, Sage Francis will never stop. He will never be happy until

the world as a whole decides to turn off their radios and open their eyes to both the beauty and the hypocrisy that surrounds us (though I’m sure he wouldn’t mind so much if it was him on the radio). On his song “Narcissist”, off his Sick of Waging War album, Sage pontificates about the way we are obsessed with fashion and clothing in this country. Not only does he criticize our society for the way we value name brands as a status symbol, but he also raises our awareness about the way these companies conduct themselves: So while these monkeys sweat over my name brands that exchange hands From enslaved lands, I wonder if I'm the same man Without reward...for what I bought but CAN'T still afford This is the type of self-realization that might have killed the Lord I didn't mind working free as a walking billboard But now I want my money back...as my ice spilled and poured Onto the floor I did see a distorted reflection of my Nike hat I don't know how others might react For me it was an unsightly act that helped me get my psyche back I stood 5 feet back, afraid that it might strike me like Shaclack clack! Ya'll think I'm kidding? It's no big thing What I seen made my heart hurt, stomach turn, throat burn, teeth cringe spine tingle, and ribs sting I noticed that the swoosh symbol was nothing but a whip in mid-swing. The contrast is sharp, to say the absolute least, when placed in comparison to Soulja Boy and his hit radio song, “Crank Dat”. His chorus, which is repeated no less than eight times, contains some of the most insipid, nonsensical, and meaningless lyrics ever to grace the airwaves: Soulja Boy off in this hoe Watch me crank it Watch me roll Watch me crank dat Soulja Boy Then super man dat hoe Now watch me yuuuah (Crank dat Soulja Boy) Now watch me yuuuah (Crank dat Soulja Boy) Now watch me yuuuah (Crank dat Soulja Boy) Now watch me yuuuah (Crank dat Soulja Boy) Now, I’m not saying that this type of music doesn’t have a place. Maybe if you’re drunk and dancing in a club you don’t necessarily want to be lectured to. That’s understandable, but there are plenty of alternatives. The best thing about the underground is that it’s multidimensional. It has something for everyone. The dark, brooding, and emotion-filled lyrics of the undergrounds arguably most successful group, Atmosphere, can pluck at even the most hardened heart strings. The intensely cryptic and intellectual lyrics from Aesop Rock can only be

understood with dictionary and thesaurus in hand. For years the Living Legend, The Hieroglyphics, and People Under the Stairs have been making thoughtful and inspired party music that you can both dissect and dance to at the same time. Immortal Technique’s politically infused messages are enough to make anyone question the world they live in, and Zion I’s energy-filled beats and rhymes offer an alternative to the “hyphy” movement for those who want to “go dumb” but not in the literal sense. So the next time you go to turn on your radio, or decide (for whatever strange reason) to turn on MTV, do yourself a huge service and pop in any album from the underground. You may have to dig to find it, and you may get a little dirty, but unearthing a hidden treasure is one of life’s most gratifying experiences.