Confessions: My New Found Love for Indie Hip Hop

I’ve been slacking. These are my confessions

I recently wrote an article for giving my thoughts on the sub genre of “underground hip hop” and what I’ve been listening to recently. The album I focused on was Apollo Brown & Skyzoo’s collaborative album, ‘The Easy Truth.’ It is a dope piece of work; something I needed to hear in the midst of popular releases that I am guilty of continually listening to. Jeffery was amazing; probably my second favorite Thugger project ever. It’s interesting, it’s different, and the artistry is incredible. Lots has been written about the album and I’m sure most of us are aware of the Best New Album rating it got on Pitchfork.

In the Speed On The Beat article I went into my new found love of these indie releases. I hate putting labels on music, especially hip hop, but I’m not sure what else to call it. I’ve been exploring so much. The internet has helped immensely, as well as record stores around Chicago. I’ve scoured the net, typing in ‘best indie hip hop albums of all time” in Google Search and striking gold. The first one that came up was Below The Heavens by Blu and after listening to it 5 or 6 times I can now put it in my top 5 favorite albums EVER.

While investigating I noticed how my ears started to appreciate different elements of the music and pick up different sounds. I haven’t listened to production with INTENSE samples in a long time. Of course Illmatic and a ton of 90’s albums were full of them, but nothing current. The last few years have been full of Drake, Kanye West (who does sample, but in a different way), Young Thug, Ty Dolla Sign, Chance The Rapper, Vic Mensa, Vince Staples, Kevin Gates, and Future to name a few. I would like to note that I listen to much more music, but these are the most “mainstream” and popular. Most of the production on these tracks and albums are full of 808’s, heavy bass, and come from Metro Boomin (just kidding). For the record I love these beats, I flock to them. I have Sony Extra Bass headphones because I’m that serious about my bass. I play everything extremely loud and enjoy every second of it.

Then, a few weeks ago everything changed. I watched a documentary on Stone’s Throw (which is EXCELLENT and is probably my favorite music documentary of all time). There was so much good information, so much I didn’t know. I appreciated the roots of the label (started by Chris Manak aka DJ Peanut Butter Wolf) and the chances he took on some unique artists. The one I heard over and over again was Madlib. I am not new to this legendary producer. I know the huge mark he has left and continues to leave on the hip hop world, especially in the underground and even more so in production. I’ve heard his classic works such as Madvilliany and his collaboration album with Freddie Gibbs. But, I didn’t know the rest.

I got Apple Music about 4 months ago and it is the best thing in the world, especially for exploring. Once I learned about the artists on Stone’s Throw I dove right into the application and added albums like crazy. They have a section of similar artists, or albums you might like, and lets just say I spent the next two weeks listening to 5 or 6 albums a day and researching writing on these albums. It was a religious experience; it grounded me, enlightened me, and gave new adoration for my favorite genre ever, hip hop.

I didn’t stop, and still haven’t. I’ve found myself not going out on the weekends just so I can listen to new stuff. I bought one of the best portable speakers money can buy just to get the best audio experience from this new music. I’ve begun to think about vinyl and exclusive merchandise again. I’ve started to believe and want to support these artists more than any loved artist before. Guys like Blu, Fashawn, Homeboy Sandman, Madlib, Knxweldge, Apollo Brown, Aesop Rock, L’Orange, Mr. Lif, Med, Quasimoto, Nottz, Exile, Elzhi. They all speak to me in a new way. They focus on lyricism, pushing limits and boundaries, and the producer AND artist creating chemistry together. I couldn’t believe how many artists have solo producers on their albums. It makes for better work.

Last note: Blu is now my new favorite artist. I don’t think he will ever drop out of my top 5 emcees of post 2000. His ability to create TOTALLY different albums sonically and content wise is just astounding. He shifts and molds with every new producer he works with. These are organic relationships and it makes for some incredible albums. His features aren’t random. He is in it to create music, not for the money or the fame. He is incredibly devoted fans that buy his vinyl and merchandise religiously and go to every one of his concerts. It is amazing to see.

I cannot wait to embark on this new journey into this sub genre of hip hop. I know it will take a lifetime to explore everything. I am so ready.

Article by flowsfordays owner and operator Julie S. You can follow her Twitter here.