Underground hip hop music keeps the core competencies that mainstream artists sometime miss. Artists like Aesop Rock, Murs, Atmosphere and Blackalicious definitely focus more effort on creating nicely produced beats and thought provoking lyrics. Here is a simple list of music to know how to be an underground hip hop artist.
Float by Aesop Rock. This classic hip hop record screams “underground.” I have had this record for over seven years and still hear something new every time. The lyrics are among the most profound and most elaborate ever composed, with each track unfolding new levels of significance after repeated listens. That is definitely not the most readily reachable rap, and you should not expect much after a single cursory listen; like all of Aesop’s records, it just gets better with time.
The Undisputed Truth by Brother Ali. Since his record Rites of Passage fell in 2000, I Have been a devotee of this rapper. Underground hip hop music goes in many ways, and while rappers like Aesop Rock stretch its limits, Brother Ali returns to its roots, using call and response over classic breakbeats. This can be one of my personal favorite rap records, ever.
Blazing Arrow by Blackalicious. This record is one of the most wide-ranging musical landscapes ever made. With the unbeatable team of Chief Xcel as producer and MC Gift of Gab, Blazing Arrow is at times daunting, inspirational and completely religious in its quest of issues including the part of blacks in America, presidential campaigns and that indescribable feeling of happiness which are available at the most unexpected of times. Definitely one of the greatest expressions of hip hop music in the previous decade. Credit to commercial kings.
Black Star by Mos Def and Talib Kweli. OK, so the commercial success of this record may hinder its inclusion with the underground, but the issues addressed by both of these world class MCs is really underground in range. Thorughout the record, you hear references to where mainstream hip hop is going wrong, and how the really great rappers still come from the underground. Talib Kweli says so himself “Cats with the raw abilities… they are in the underground.”