Radio: Underground Hip-Hop
by Mosi Reeves | May 29, 2012
Underground hip-hop has changed. Years ago, it referred to collectives like Jurassic 5, Hieroglyphics, Quannum, Anticon, Definitive Jux; these were rappers who defiantly claimed they were outside the mainstream, and declared Gang Starr, Pete Rock, Cold Crush Brothers and Ultramagnetic MCs as guiding forces. Now, it refers to groups like Odd Future, Curren$y, Big K.R.I.T and Stalley; for them, being non-commercial is a mere technicality resulting from lack of pop radio hits, not an artistic choice. In fact, many of them are signed to major labels, either directly or via distribution deals.
But that doesn't mean that indie rap is dead. In fact, the scene is alive and more diverse than ever. And unlike the divisive "are you indie enough" purity tests that divided and eventually destroyed the old indie scene, rap fans don't distinguish between Big K.R.I.T's tastefully appointed Dirty South nostalgia and Roach Gigz's Yay Area hyphy raps on any criteria except talent. The "real hip-hop" labels have faded away; after all, it's been nearly two decades since the "silver age" of 1990s boom bap took place. Today's influencers are Kanye West, Jay-Z and OutKast, whose achievements are much more current and relevant.
This renaissance has been going on for years now, and Napster's Underground Hip-Hop radio station reflects it. For anyone who used to tune in for their daily dose of classic Pharcyde and Souls of Mischief, don't worry: We've started a new station called True School Hip-Hop that spotlights the best of the backpacker era, which roughly spans from the mid-'90s to the mid-2000s. Meanwhile, our revamped Underground Hip-Hop station still includes veteran artists like J Dilla, Madlib, MF Doom and The Roots. Everyone still loves the old school, but it's time to give the new generation a shot, too.