Alternative Rap Artists & History
How and why has alternative hip hop done so well as a genre across racial and economic lines?
With artists like Kanye, Kid Cudi, and Chance the Rapper among others bringing a unique sound to mainstream modern rap, what is the “it factor” that draws listeners in?
Social reliability - 2pac and Eminem both channeled a lot of displeasure with the current times, and used this to paint a picture. Social songs focused on issues that people could relate to. Kendrick Lamar, Donald Glover, myself and others provide their own unique musicianship while also talking about issues relevant to not only our communities but the world at large.
Musical Diversity - Alternative I believe is the opposite of pop, which usually gives the listener a glossy and hard to critique sound and lyrical composition. Let me be clear, this is not a criticism but rather an assessment. But pop music, as the name implies, is popular and non-threatening. Kanye again changed the game by giving you something palatable while throwing in nuggets of social activism and diverse musical brilliance that included many different genres.
Origins of some of my favorites start with the golden age of hip hop. Alternative hip hop was headed by East Coast rappers such as A Tribe Called Quest, Digable Planets, De La Soul, C.L. Smooth & Pete Rock & Jungle Brothers, and Brand Nubian. West Coast genius came from groups like The Pharcyde, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, Digital Underground, Souls of Mischief, The Coup, Freestyle Fellowship and Abstract Rude. And there were cultural leaders such as Arrested Development, Goodie Mob, and OutKast. This hip hop movement made to the mainstream because they were new and in front of hip hop. Arrested Development along with The Fugees were one of the first few alternative rap groups to be recognized by the mainstream. Sometimes you cannot deny talent no matter what you do.
1994 - This is when Lauryn Hill and The Fugees jumped on the scene and completely turned the music industry on its head. The Fugees second album sold about six million copies in the United States and more than 17 million copies worldwide.
This genre was on the map, inspiring the Lamars, Kanyes and more. Giving thanks to those out of New York that paved the way in the 70's, they essentially created a new brand of Jazz! Jazz is the great-grandfather of original hip hop. I leave room for debate!
The alternative hip hop movement is not limited solely to the United States, but other countries like the UK continue to put out musically gifted and brilliant artists. This is a worldwide movement of musical diversity that is hard to categorize, which is a good thing... why live in a box?
Artist of Note but certainly limited too:
The Roots, Guru, Beastie Boys, poet K'naan, Dialated Peoples, Japanese rapper Shing02, MIA, Japanese jazz rap DJ Nujabes, Lupe Fiasco, J Dilla, Mos Def, Kid Cudi, Wale, Chance the Rapper, Childish Gambino, Yelawolf, Micheal Franti, Little Brother, J. Cole, Ladybug Mecca, Goodie Mob, Wu-Tang, Frank ocean, Blu and Exile, Tyler The Creator, Wale, ASAP Rocky, Shoolboy Q, Ultramagnetic MC, Rapsody
Best Alternative Rap Albums ( no particular order )
- Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly
- The Pharcyde - Bizarre Ride II
- Fugees/Ms. Lauryn Hill - The Score
- A Tribe Called Quest - Low End Theory
- OutKast - Aquemini
- The Roots - Things Fall Apart
- Kanye West - The College Dropout