6 Feet Deep
How many people recognize the artist in this photo? Not many.
Underground(adj.) - sunken, buried. (ii)done or acting in secrecy; (iii) pertaining to anything that is experimental,…unconventional[Webster]. Whoa! Is the so-called underground movement in Hip Hop really buried in a style so experimental that it has to be carried out secretly? Hell no! Why then have we chosen such an ugly word to describe their unique contributions to the world? Much more important than “why” is what this tag , underground, often attracts to those who choose to go by it. While preparing for this article, I looked up synonyms of the word “underground”. The results stamped a look of concern on my face: secret covert, under wraps, hush-hush, surreptitious, undercover, concealed, below ground. Rap fanatics will be quick to argue that it’s only a word which may not necessarily reflect the typical features of underground Hip Hop. Valid argument, but I highly disagree. Why? Elite members of the underground movement such as KRS-One, Common, and Masta Ace for instance, have all failed to get across to the wider audience(below ground) even though they’ve had decades to do so. In most cases, their retail material is not easily available (concealed), and most importantly they alienate themselves from the media(surreptitious). (You’ll come across 1000 2Pac albums before you find one by Masta Ace, O.C. or K-OS).
Yet when you get acquainted with this “undercover” music genre, you’ll readily admit they’re the most creative, passionate, and skillfully endowed individuals in the history of Hip Hop (unless your uncle is Bill O‘Reilly). The “underground” artists, most of whom also qualify as “back-packers“(that’s another story) always back up their music with a message. If such substantial lyrical enlightenment, be it political or philosophical, fail to reach as many people as targeted, then the purpose is ultimately defeated. That’s another reason why underground is such an ugly word. Every now and then, you’ll stumble across an “underground” MC who spews mediocre songs with production that screams “nobody’s going to buy it anyway”, but the vast majority of under-appreciated artists even in other genres are possibly the most talented lovers of the art. By eliminating the word “underground” from the Hip Hop Dictionary, they’ll be able to receive the much-deserved appreciation.
Listen to KRS-One's latest album "Keep Right"