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THE YEAR OF THE UNDERGROUND

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I, Elijah Tarik Powell, am proclaiming that this year will mark the resurrection of real underground Hip Hop music. Why? Because in 2014 the culture in its mainstream light dimmed lower than any true heads thought it ever would: Rap had been almost completely Vanilla Iced with the likes of Iggy Azalea and Riff Raff thinking they had the right to touch the mic and represent an art form they obviously cannot even begin to comprehend. Aside from that, the streets from which Hip Hop emerged hurt, as those who exploit the culture got money bags thrown at them in exchange for their clownery rose to the top. I think the hip hop community knows now that we can no longer simply talk about recovering, and must instead take action. This will be the year that action will be taken because in the midst of weeds growing in Hip Hop’s garden in 2014, seeds of authenticity were planted that will blossom to far greater heights in 2015.

 

There’s a slew of emcees that would put last year’s music to shame and I’m excited to watch them do it. Here’s the lineup of the up and coming artists you should pay attention to before they punch your favorite rapper in the face, lyrically, and hopefully literally, as well.

 

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#1- Chelsea Reject

 

I was highly impressed by this emcee’s debut project released this past year, which you can read my review for here. In depth lyrics delivered ever so nonchalantly-The type of flare Hip Hop desperately needs. Her latest singles “Everything’s Change” and “Gotta Shine’ have my nose bleeding in anticipation for her upcoming project, CMPLX, which will be dropping soon this year. Be on the look out for it.

 

 


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#2- J. Fears

This guy. He’s one of the most unique emcees I know of. His tracks released in 2014 express the issues most people hold inside only leading to the rotting of the soul. The emotional intensity of his lyrics make listeners think back to how they dealt with past events most people are familiar with, like a friend who really wasn’t true, or loneliness. His upcoming project Open For Business has me overwhelmingly hyped. There is no clear release date yet, but I’m hoping it will be soon. The underground will definitely need it for its ascension this year.

 

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#3- Cast

Cast’s lyrics need to be heard this year. In such serious times, music that makes you chuckle without sacrificing substance is essential to lifting spirits, not in an effort to make people ignore problems, but to help them feel better about facing them. His debut mixtape, Slapped Together, might not have had beats that the average person could bob their heads to, but the lyrics took over and did that job well. I’m hoping that for his next release this year he gets to work with producers that will provide him with beats that will go hand in hand with his quirky style of rap without completely trashing mass appeal. Anyway, this is definitely a talent you should keep an eye out for.

 

 

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#4- T’nah Apex

T’nah Apex, the rising star reminiscent of Lauryn Hill but wielding her own rap style, slices through the extremely sexist rap scene by refusing to oversexualize herself in order to achieve fame. This emcee brings back the soul that even some underground emcees lack. Instead of letting justified anger lead her music, she graces headphones and boombox speakers with food for thought expressed gently, making it easy for even casual Hip Hop music fans to grasp. Having been Pro Era’s pocket affiliate for quite some time now, I believe Apex is ready to unleash her talent which will hopefully be released this year. Until then, her collaborations with Hip Hop veterans quenches the thirst for the fans she’s already hooked. However, a new full project would elevate her to new heights of storytelling, hopefully gaining her more popularity along the way.

 

 

 

 

 

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#5- Venomous 2000

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: A Moment To Reflect 3 is a classic. The funny thing is Venomous is so consistent with music. If he’s not dropping single after single, he’s on tour across Europe. I really cannot keep up with this man. For a Hip Hop veteran, he’s got such a youthful energy about him, but still delivers lyricism only a wiser emcee with over a decade of experience could spawn. I’m usually not fond of trilogies having a fourth sequel, making the saga ineligible of being known as a trilogy. Venomous 2000 though? I think he could pull it off. Whether he releases A Moment to Reflect 4 or starts a brand new series, it’s guaranteed to be fantastic. If you miss his next release in 2015, it’ll be like picking up a “go to jail” card while playing monopoly.

 

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#6- Rich G

This guy made me believe that if you keep expressing the same message, eventually people will accept it and it will become your reality. With that said, Rich’s road to success is paved in gold. Two mixtapes in, and Tha Genius is already heating up the streets. Delete that Fetty Wap song off ya phone, New Jersey. Open the airwaves to a real emcee: “These rappers nowadays can’t even joust with em’/You let em’ in with those wack flows, man I evict em’”. There are rappers that lasted one year tops in the mainstream rap business that wish they had this kid’s skills that could have gained them the longevity their careers lacked. Hunger for whatever Rich has been cooking up to serve this year is irritating my stomach. Skip the mainstream pizza and check the menu for the underground caviar.

 

 

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#7- Skewby

When I discovered Memphis, Tennessee native Skewby in 2013, his EP’s ruled my mp3 player. In 2014 it seemed he took a break, releasing only one single, while mostly focusing on being other artists’ feature. I’m guessing he was busy making moves in silence. It is always darkest just before the dawn. With his humble approach to a cut-throat industry and a ridiculous amount of potential, I believe a full album is iminent. I’ll even go as far as to say it could be a classic. He’s mastered the his own style of rap as well as beat production. The soul in his music reminds me of Kanye West back in his early days. I think as long as Skewby stays true to himself, he could turn out to be an even greater success. His music has substance and mass appeal. Classic songs of any genre possess these traits. He’s on the right track, and in 2015 he will arrive at the station for a grand ovation.

 

 

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#8- Damien Stylez

Don’t let the young appearance fool you. Damien has the skills and recording experience of a 26 year old emcee at the age of only 14. Not to mention that his voice is as rough as sandpaper which adds to his conscious message wrapped around hardcore beats that make a listener tremble on the pavement. Real Hip Hop heads who know of this young prodigy tip they’re fitted caps to him as he walks up to the mic stand. His latest single release “50,000 Heads” proves why. With an upcoming release on the way titled Young Picasso: The Legendary Fossil, label leaching rappers may as well resign right now. This kid is rap’s high speed jet soon to take flight, and I can’t wait for the takeoff. Keep your head to the sky to catch a glimpse.

 


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#9- Sule

Lyrics, if executed well enough, have the power to paint vivid pictures in listeners minds. No one has exemplified this skill with as much finesse this past year as much as Sule, his debut release The Renaissance EP putting him on the underground map in New Jersey. Once again, delete that Fetty Wap crap off your phone and leave some gigabytes free for a real emcee. Sule’s relatable and versatile style caresses any beat he raps on, making his more pop music sounding tracks sound just as soulful as his boom bap songs. His 2014 EP in particular could easily be the soundtrack to the life of any boy becoming a man. My fingers are crossed for another release in 2015 that could aid in the elevation of the underground movement.

 

 

 

 

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#10- Paragon Squad

That’s right! MYSELF, and my man JR Medina have been putting together a full album. We began its creation in late 2013 and it will pay off this year. Go ahead and ask around. Anyone who knows my music will tell you I only produce heat. When Ain’t My Cup of Tea drops I guarantee all new listeners will understand that. Its been a long time coming in between small releases on soundcloud, features (The song I was featured on on Venomous 2000’s latest album got the most plays on soundcloud out of all 26 tracks on the project), and open mic performances. So yes, watch out for the paragons. This is not the year for modesty.  It’s 2015, the year the underground rises in the most assertive of ways. Let’s get it.

 

All of these artists have a drive to show their worth through music and have the skill required to do so. So don’t just watch for how many records they sell or how much cash they rack up off endorsement deals that have nothing to do with their music. Take time this year to appreciate their work for what it is: Art that, instead of giving you a transitory high that fizzles out quickly just in time for the next musical drug to be released that will replace the void life fills in your heart, provokes thought, makes you question things, entices your imagination, and truly speaks to you as a human rather than the vessel for labor looking only to afford trivial escapes in between work hours.

 

Let me also just say that I do not think all mainstream entertainment is bad, but mainstream entertainment is just that: entertainment. Entertainment is not art. It imitates art and simplifies it for the masses. Art can be entertaining, however that is usually not an artist’s purpose for creating art. Usually artists create in an effort to communicate with others about how they feel about world happenings. Entertainment’s goal is to entertain, usually by taking the public’s eye off those important issues artists express themselves about, in an effort to pacify the masses, a tactic that has and probably will continue to succeed, until you the viewer/listener takes the power in your own hands to listen to the artists instead and wake up from the sleep mere entertainment desires to keep you in.

 

Mainstream rap is the same way which is probably why you have not heard of the artists I have named. Ignorance to these artists, or anything for that matter, is not a crime. However, being content with ignorance is, maybe not to society, but certainly to oneself. In doing so you cut yourself off from knowledge, forfeiting your power as a human being, making it easy for others with mal intent to control you by imposing their influence on vulnerable and malleable minds. With that said I ask that if you currently have a negative view of hip hop, acquaint yourself with these artists. If you dislike Hip Hop, its probably because you have only been exposed to the mainstream rap music that exploits the culture’s pure form(aggressive intellectualism expressed visibly through graffiti art, physically through break dancing, and audibly though beat production, DJing, and emceeing), which the artists I have just listed embody. Its 2015, a new year. Why not branch outside of what you already know? If you do, I guarantee you’ll feel refreshed, enlightened, and hopefully have learned something meaningful in the process.


Peace, and have a good year.

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THE YEAR OF THE UNDERGROUND