Life Down Under
We’ve all heard the names Eminem, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne and Drake but rarely do you hear names like Mica Swain, Hasan Salaam, Lex9Eleven, Silent Knight and Blind Fury. Why? These names are rarely heard because they are “underground” artists. What is underground music? Underground music can be described as music that is not in the forefront relating to national exposure. It’s music that is not heard by the masses but only heard on a local level. Even at the local level underground music is still society’s best kept secret. Many people are simply not interested in underground hip hop unless they know someone personally who is proactively involved in this elusive but exciting culture. Although many are not interested, the hip hop scene tends to have an electrifying nightlife, with many artists heavily on their grind making a desperate attempt to ensure that their hard work is being heard, performing at local nightclubs, events and opening for big named acts in and out of their hometown. Attendees at these functions have been known to become supporters and fans instantly attaining the most talented of the underground scene local celebrity status. Every well known, nationally recognized musician begins their career as an underground artist. With many of them beginning their climb to the top by spitting rhymes with their friends in cyphers , recording music right out of their own homes with their Wal Mart store-bought equipment. As these underground novices gradually become familiar with their craft they begin to see the importance of investment in quality equipment, videos and promotions which ultimately are beneficial in their journey to pursue a recording contract with a major record label. As an up and coming artist in the game its in your best interest to have a manager, street team, promoter and public relations specialist to help book gigs, garner massive internet coverage, radio play and just overall exposure in general, some have done it by themselves and at the same time many have failed at it because they lacked the initiative or budget to hire a “team”. A strong team with quality music with substance, dedication, investment and confidence can catapult the most unknown into the spotlight.
The underground does not only consist of MC’s, the scene is rich with the art of DJ’in. While there are many types of Dj’s from radio to internet to club Dj’s, the hip hop underground DJ is the one who brings flava to the underground emcee. DJ’s with a great taste and selection in music can make even the most mundane rapper seem supreme. Percussively scratching the turntables while toasting (chatting) over a dope beat, the Dj plays a pivotal role in cyphers and underground hip hop period. The underground Hip Hop scene is much more complex than just music. Along with the music comes graffiti aka taggin and b-boyin, all of which began in the streets of New York in the late 70′s early 80′s. Graffiti can date back to Roman times but modern day graffiti is most commonly associated with the hip hop underground. Taggers use their artistic abilities transforming sides of buildings, walls of subway stations, train boxcars, water towers basically anything that can be used as a platform into creative masterpieces of hip hop culture. Leaving a stamp of their “hood” and talent along the way, graffiti artist nowadays are subject to fines and imprisonment if caught by the local authorities as it no longer becomes art but vandalism in the eyes of the government.
Now we cant talk about the underground without mentioning the lost art of b-boying. Many original b-boys and b-girls argue that the term “breakdancing” is the wrong title for the talented dancers, which they say was term created by the media to introduce the art to the masses. No matter how you look at it, B-boys these days are a secret to society, most of them reside where the birth of hip hop emerged out of the streets of New York performing on the corners and underground subways in many attract tourists collecting a lil change on the way.
Many b-boys/girls formed crews as they would go from hood to hood challenging and battling other crews for street credentials and bragging rights all the while gaining them regional if not national exposure. The elements of b-boying which were used in battles consisted of toprock, downrock, power moves and freezes/suicides which many modern R&B dancers incorporate in their dance steps to this day. With legendary crews like The Rock Steady Crew and The Dynamic Rockers B-boyin will live forever in the hip hop culture.
With the MC, DJ, Graffiti artist and B-boys we have the 4 elements of Hip Hop. This is life down under, I invite you to take this journey with me as I welcome you to The Underground Institute of Hip Hop!