Indie hip-hop and its culture is an underground phenomenon of hip-hop. Although not as outwardly popular as mainstream, it has its own influences depending on the artist. However, to understand indie hip-hop and the culture, we have to begin with what hip-hop is.
The birth of the music genre known as hip-hop happened in the 20th century, specifically the late 1970s, in the South Bronx before moving to New York City, Los Angeles, Miami and other parts of the world. Hip-hop is often confused with the term “rap” or “rapping.” However, the genre is more comprehensive than that. Hip-hop does indeed include the written word combined with music, otherwise known as rapping, but it encompasses an entire culture of clothing, dancing, deejaying, graffiti painting and, of course, rapping. Therefore, hip-hop is more than just what you hear. It’s also what you see and how you feel.
Hip-hop began as an African-American phenomenon. You had pioneers such as Run-D.M.C., Public Enemy, LL Cool Jay, N.W.A., Snoop Dogg, Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre, Lil’ Kim and Notorious B.I.G. White performers such as the Beastie Boys and Eminem are also considered pioneers. Today, hip-hop is performed by people of all races and what these people wear, what they sing, how they move influences the people who follow what they do. They are considered mainstream performers, or entertainers who are well-known across the globe.
Indie hip-hop, as mentioned above, is underground. That means that it is generally independently made. But in some cases, an indie hip-hop artist may be signed to a major label. The culture of hip-hop usually follows the same rules. The style of the music is generally the same, except when entertainers choose to vary from the standard, such as Kendrick Lamar. The clothing – bagging clothing, lots of gold jewelry – are generally the same. Hip-hop performers may have background dancers on stage, but they usually walk across the stage and rap rather than dance. Hip-hop art has fonts and images that are standard. Indie hip-hop, however, is often different. It doesn’t stick to the basic hip-hop culture rules. Indie artists experiment and stray from the standard. Indie hip-hop culture is separated according to the artists as opposed to being a whole. Examples of indie hip-hop artists include Brian Brown, Sleep Sinatra, Moe Dirt, Lord Jamar, Jedi Mind Tricks, Donald Glover and many, many, many more.
The freedom of indie hip-hop’s various cultures is due to its independent and underground nature, particularly for those who are not on a major label. They don’t have to rely on a major record company and can, instead, promote their music through word-of-mouth and social media, such as YouTube and SoundCloud. Although they are indie, some of these artists, such as Macklemore and Mos Def managed to go from indie to mainstream. However, many indie hip-hop artists will tell you that going mainstream is not their goal. Making the music that is real to their hearts, not controlled by a record company, is their goal.