Underground Hip Hop Continues Nodding at the People & We Can't Help But Nod Back

-- Editorial

Underground hip hop continues to be a bastion of hope and a voice for the labor class and the poor, or as we've called it, 'the people.'  While it would be impossible to be comprehensive here, we've set out to highlight a few of the best pieces to emerge in the last few years -- the ones that speak to us, literally.

Remember D'angelo's 2006 'Untitled' video, you know the minimalist one where he stands presumably naked, beckoning the ladies with every twitch of his pecks as he asks "how does it feel?" Atmosphere's track 'Guarantees', off his album When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold (2008) is sort of like that, only for Atmosphere the ladies are working stiffs, wayward struggling souls whose "only guarantee is to walk away."

Common Market's independent 2008 album, Tobacco Road, gives a heavy nod to the labor class through emcee Ra Scion's engaging and unique lyricism and the video for the single 'Trouble Is' is a fine and creative introduction to that fact.  Bobbing our heads steadily over here at Commonline.

In 2006 the revolutionary Hip Hop duo Dead Prez teamed up with Outlawz to produce a little known album called Can't Sell Dope Forever.  Among the bright spots on the album is the track 'Believe,' an anthem anchored by Stic.Man, one half of Dead Prez.  What's more, the female you hear on the track is no other than Stic.Man's mother.  The track addresses the general diaspora of poor and minority communities and calls for the taking of personal responsibility by their members. "...too many of us addicted to the American dream / we high from the lies on the TV screen / we drunk from the poison that they teach in the schools / and we junkies from the chemicals we eat in the food." - Stic.Man    

Michael Eric Dyson, professor of sociology at Georgetown University, characterizes Houston, Texas based rapper Scarface as one of the unsung heroes of meaningful hip hop.  Dr. Dyson is indeed correct.  Over the years Scarface has skillfully combined important social commentary with hard hitting beats, producing some of the most palatable and important urban music available today.  'Can't Get Right,' a video single featuring the soulful Bilal from the 2008 Emeritus album, speaks for itself.  Watch it, twice.

In 2008 legendary rapper Ice Cube released Raw Footage, his eighth and arguably best studio LP. Yes, we know that this is a bit over the underground line, but cut us a little slack because the socially charged song and video for the single "Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It" is about as good as it gets when it comes to politicly conscious Gangsta Rap. The video for the track is fairly minimalist, but like Scarface's 'Can't Get Right' it contains a montage which plays apropos the song's lyrics. The montage includes media from the 1992 Los Angeles riots, the crashing of United Airlines Flight 175 into the second tower of the World Trade Center, multiple instances of police brutalilty, and the Virginia Tech massacre of 2007, among dozens of other historical clips. Pyroclastic flow? -- check.