4) The Underground Needs A True Crossover Star
During the ‘80s and '90s, the underground hip-hop scene often times anointed the trends and future stars of the movement. Artists as diverse as Run-D.M.C., MC Lyte, N.W.A., Geto Boys, Nas, and Eminem all initially garnered acclaim on subterranean levels, often times working their way up the rap food chain whether it was through relentless touring, rap battles or a series of guest appearing on songs. Yet in today’s rap world, it is par-for-the-course to witness MC’s sidestep the underground altogether, going straight for the pop-or-bust ring.
According to Allhiphop.com founder Chuck Creekmur, Jay Electronica signals a return to a time when there was a synergy between the mainstream and the underground. “This is why [Electronica] signing with a major superstar like Jay-Z is so important,” Creekmur says. “The underground and commercial worlds have got to find some common ground in order for hip-hop to be viable and to continue to survive. The way most people envision it is the underground somehow lives independently of everything else, survives and sells millions of records. But that’s never been the case. There’s always been a marriage between the underground and the mainstream…until now.”
“I think Redman is a good example of this,” Creekmur adds. There was no major deal when he signed to Def Jam Records back in the day. Yet he was able to have the whole Month of the Man campaign with Method Man, which was huge. And no one saw that as some huge, corporate, devil worshipping union [laughs]. It was pure hip-hop.”