Over the past two decades rap or hip-hop music has become accepted by a large audience and can even be considered mainstream music, especially for today’s youth. In the hip-hop scene there are many subcultures but one of the most well-known of them is known as underground hip-hop. This is just an umbrella term to describe hip-hop artists that shy any from the mainstream and try to focus more on social conscious or positive messages. In the underground there are even more subcultures but I am going to talk about the underground as a whole.
There are many similar aspects that the underground and mainstream rappers share but the main differences are that they portray different messages and the underground does not put focus on commercialization. In the mainstream, many rappers pretend to be something that they are not to sell albums. This is a form of commodification and black face. They embrace the negative stereotypes, and in a way play them off like they are good things. Different examples of this would be gangsta rappers such as Snoop Dogg and more main stream artists such as Lil Wayne and Soulja Boy. These types of rappers are a big reason that stereotypes of black people in American continue to exist. The mainstream audience has embraced this rebel type music and even incorporated some aspects into their own lives such as dressing like “gangsters” and doing recreational drugs. A lot of the underground rap scene has challenged this as troublesome to the youth and not representative of what rap should really be.
What the underground is doing is offering a different representation of what they believe rap should be. They still often buy into the gangster aspect so it can be inferred that a lot of these rappers are offering negotiated representations. More negotiated rappers that have really gained a huge fan base are rappers such as Tech N9NE, Immortal Technique, and even Tupac Shakur. These rappers talk about the struggles of growing up in difficult situations. They do portray a lot of stereotypes, but they argue that there should be change and that these stereotypes aren’t necessarily a good thing. Other underground rappers that I prefer offer more resistant and oppositional representation of hip-hop and rap. These can include groups and artists such as Binary Star, Cyne, and Illogic. These artists challenge what mainstream artists have to say in their music and then then give listeners how to go about change whether than be through the individual or through taking action.
I believe that the underground hip-hop scene does a great job at breaking stereotypes of black and other minority Americans. They offer new representations and challenge negative representations in the mainstream now. As a result there is a lot of diversity in underground hip-hop. Some examples of this diversity are Asian-American rappers MC Geologic of Blue Scholars and J-Splif of Far East Movement, white rapper Grieves from the independent label Rhyme Sayers, Cuban/Latino American group Cypress Hill, White/African American/Native American rapper Slug of Atmosphere, and many more. Hopefully the underground can get more popularity so that people can start seeing alternative representations of Hip-hop music and those who are part of that culture.