I’ve always loved underground Hip Hop for a plethora of reasons. I think my fundamental passion for it comes from the sub-genre almost remaining untouched by the mainstream media. By this I mean most of these guys don’t have your typical record deal thus they aren’t fighting for that coveted #1 chart spot. When you take away the commercial aspect of a genre that has been almost completely commercialised you are left with some very interesting stuff. This is a list of my top 5 Underground emcee’s enjoy and you might just find yourself a new favourite artist.
Aesop Rock is a man I consider to be the father of abstract lyricism. His methodical cadence and use of similes and metaphorical content makes him good enough to enter this list. However what places him at the top of his list is his knack for creating captivating and complex songs without leaning on any one of his skills too blatantly allowing him to focus on the subtle details of his songs. A great example of his mastery are the songs Daylight & Nightlight where he pulls off an ambitious concept: He takes all the themes brought up in Daylight and completely flips them in Nightlight using the same lyric structure. What your left with is two song which are fundamentally exactly the same however the themes in both are the exact opposite and makes for really interesting listening.
MF Doom has been referred to as the King of Underground Hip Hop, a title that is not given lightly and in this case 100% justified. He has been trialled by time and tribulation and proven that he is the one of the great pioneers of “the game”. Known for almost constantly wearing his trademark metal mask as a symbol that it’s all about the music not the person who makes it. Another thing that sets him apart from other emcee’s is that he is also an accomplished producer not just releasing mixtapes and albums but also creating full instrumental projects in a series called special herbs. Named as an inspiration for emcee’s such as Joey Bada$$ and having ties to almost all of the relevant artists in the underground hip hop scene MF Doom is definitely worth checking out.
RA da Rugged man
RA da Rugged man. One of the most iconic and influential heads in underground hip hop, handpicked by the Notorious one himself Biggie Smalls RA turned down numerous deals to keep his integrity as an emcee. He has dropped classic after classic and has proven, at least in my mind, that anything he touches is turned to gold. Armed with a relentless flow and cadence reminiscent of Method Man he is always pushing the borders of what you can do with a rap song. An example of this is the song “smith haven mall” where he takes on the mind state of a criminal and explains his thought processes in the form of a first person narrative.
Jam Baxter is the only non-American on this list, and for good reason. Uk hip hop Has only really come into its own within the last 10 or so years witch immediately puts UK based emcees at a disadvantage when it come to this list as they haven’t rely stood the test of time like some of the other candidates on this list. However lyric for lyric, rhyme for rhyme Jam Baxter can hang with the very best of them. His use of the English language is absolutely diabolical: creating complex similes, the depth of his descriptive pieces is astounding and his lyrical form is flawless. What truly places Jam Baxter on this list is his ability to create complex metaphors through his extravagant use of the English language allows him to really root himself inside your mind and make you really ponder upon his lyrics until you work out the metaphorical meaning for the song.
Capital Steez. The worst tragedy in modern Hip Hop, or at least in my opinion. The potential this young man had was where I placed my hope for Hip Hop in the modern era. The way he creates a strong native and theme in a song and follows it thorough to the end make all of his tracks instant classics. Steez has a very old school east coast style which you can recognise through his production and flow that gives him a very 90’s sound. His general message is expanding knowledge and lyrical style, one of the two main elements of the hip hop culture. Basically Steez was the resurrection of the “real” Hip Hop in my eyes and his tragic passing on Christmas Eve 2012 devastated me; I’m comforted by the fact his message lives on through his music and influence. #LongLiveSTeelo