What Makes an Artiste Underground?


Underground music or underground artists are often reported on by RapTV and other organizations. But that does not mean everyone is familiar with what exactly an “underground” artist is.

Being an Underground Artist

The term “underground” has been used to describe artists for a long time. Whether you are a writer, painter, or musician, you can be considered “underground.”

The are several differences between an underground artist versus one who is merely struggling. If you are, for example, an underground rapper, that may mean that you have been in the game for a while, that you have your own unique style, good rhymes, and basically that you know what you are doing. Also, you will likely have a local fan base that follows and enjoys your music. A struggling or new, rapper or hip hop artist, on the other hand, may just be coming into his or her own. Maybe they are still learning their craft and are just starting to put music together or just starting to perform.

The difference between being underground versus being new is often a matter of skills. However, the difference between being underground versus being mainstream is what is more important.

Mainstream Versus Underground

There are many underground rappers and hip hop artists whose ultimate goal is to become mainstream successes. But this is not always the case. While, to some, the label “underground” simply means the artist has yet to achieve mainstream success, there are actually a number of artists who will gladly remain underground for the entirety of their careers.

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It is always somewhat difficult to tell which musicians are choosing to stay underground versus which are simply incapable of producing a hit big enough to become commercial successes. In most cases, though, it is safe to assume that most rappers and hip hop artists want to be as financially successful as possible. However, there are times when a musician may choose creative independence over greater financial success.

Which mainstream notoriety comes a number of responsibilities. Glitzy interviews, a public persona, having to tour the country or even the world. To many musicians, these things sound like living the dream. But, there are some who would much rather simply stay small and focus fully on the music.

That is not to say that mainstream artists don’t care about their craft. In many cases, they certainly do. But fame is, by its very nature, a distraction. And it is certainly harder for musicians of any kind to stay productive and creative when there are lines of people beating at their doors.

Beyond just the nature of the work, another thing that makes underground artists underground is their sound. Certain types of music, although interesting, and sometimes highly-creative, simply lacks mainstream appeal. This is not to say that all music that lacks mainstream appeal is good, yet misunderstood. That is not the case. There is plenty of bad music out there. And, in most cases, the reason musicians who can’t get a record deal has more to do with not being good enough than anything else. But there are also certain instances where artists are good enough, but they are creating music that is so unique or different; it does not have mainstream appeal. Cases like these create what we think of as the underground artist: One who is highly talented, but who specializes in a type of music that does not have a mainstream appeal.

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Now that you know what makes an underground artist, you can look out for underground music and interesting sounds around where you live. Who knows, you might just find something great that you’ve never would have heard before.



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