As any person who has a job from time to time you discuss things that are happening outside of work. At my place of work from time to time we discuss Hip Hop and Rap music so the other day a coworker says in conversation to another coworker that I listen to “underground Hip Hop”. I immediately refuted her statement but I didn’t go into my entire spiel. I wasn’t refuting the fact that I listen to underground Hip Hop I was refuting the use of the word underground as it pertains to Rap/Hip Hop music. Yes, years ago before the internet was such an integral part of our lives there was underground Hip Hop music. Hip Hop that didn’t get radio play unless a Dee Jay wanted to play it. Back when DJs could actually break records and make other decisions about what gets played on-air an underground emcee could gain a little traction and build their fan base. This was during a time where music television stations actually played music videos.
Now with the music industry as a whole being more controlled, monetized, and watered down these same “underground” artists have to find a new way to get their music out to the masses. But that’s no different than what a seasoned musician has to do in this age of streaming and low album sales. The experienced musician and the independent artist are on equal playing fields now with the various platforms that they have access to in order to get their projects out. They both have access to iTunes, YouTube, Soundcloud, and other sites and companies that just want to be that platform for musicians to get their work out to the masses. You don’t need a promotional budget anymore if you’re on Instagram and Periscope. I know social media and other similar platforms can only get you so far but if you use them to your advantage without over saturating the market you can exist alongside those power players. Technology means that things are constantly changing so a Rapper from 1976, 1986, 1996, 2006, and 2016 are all different animals because of the technology that was available in that time.
To be an underground emcee in 2016 means your grind is different, your struggle and successes will be weighted differently as well. You may not be able to record a song in studio with your favorite emcee but you can send them a link directly to your music via Twitter or Facebook. You may not be able to go directly to the parent label and wait for an A&R but you can join a Rap battle league to test your skill level. The internet provides access to all types of music both good and bad but an artist has to put it out there for people to find and if your music has good quality than you will start to see a solid fan base and you can make a decent living without the fame. You can be more than a hometown hero and you can be the global icon but what it all boils down to is how hard are you willing to work for what you want. To be an underground emcee in 2016, take the road less traveled and be yourself without compromise.