Underground Poets
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Underground Poets

Six Underground Hip-Hop Artists that will bring the poet out in you

Underground Poets

In June of 1995, testifying over the lawsuit of a deceased state trooper, rapper Tupac Shakur defended the artistic merit of rap music, saying, "That's what it [rap] is to me: poetry. To me it's story-telling poetry."

No other genre carries the torch of Tupac's message quite like underground hip hop. The definition of underground hip hop has evolved since its inception in the late 90s but generally speaking, underground hip hop is the umbrella term for any hip hop act that exists outside the mainstream, commercial focus. As a writer myself, I owe a large part of the formation of my poetic style to the rappers listed below. Here are six underground hip-hop artists that will bring out the poet in you, too.

1. Aesop Rock

Listening to Aesop Rock can be a challenging experience. His verses contain layers and layers of metaphors richly packed with an impressive vocabulary. Make sure to have his Genius page up to aid in your annotations.

Representative lyric

Bantamweight temper tantrum, decrepit anthem

Set a low goal, I arrive late

I'm here to scrape a cog clean till the funk machine

Imposes on the underling amalgam cluster and identifies the mother

(Oh you got heart?)

I hate to tell you but it skips more than it palpitates

Like these here drunken little archers miss more than they calculate

- The Yes & The Y'all

2. billy woods

Other than his propensity for hiding his face in music videos and press releases, I do not know much about Bushwick based rapper billy woods. However, my introduction to him through his 2019 project with producer Kenny Segal, Hiding Places, was nothing short of invigorating. The songs on Hiding Places are impressionistic, lyrics biting over Segal's fractured production.

Representative lyric

Mosh through the orchestra pit, the rip CD-R skip

You hope the CD-S don't stick, bent over dope-sick

Too scared to write the book, took it, put it in the hook

Of a song, no one listened to it, looks like I wasn't wrong

Hid it where they wouldn't look, lookin' like Zedong

- Spongebob

3. Homeboy Sandman

Rapper Lupe Fiasco listed Homeboy Sandman as being one the top 8 lyricists in rap in a now deleted tweet. Sandman is a New York based rapper and frequent collaborator of Aesop Rock known for his quirky punchlines and witty wordplay. His best bars demand re-listening.

Representative Lyric

On switch but no off

I own it because a rolling stone gathers no moss

I sense that I should censor all but visceral thoughts

Food for thought, lick the plate at no additional cost

- Life Support

4. Deca

Rapper, producer, and artist Deca has a unique style and flow that he uses to convey messages on everything from substance abuse to the current state of societal affairs. Lyrically, his metaphors are thought provoking, but not in a way that is alienating for the listener. Additionally, his production creates a soundscape that richly displays his audio palette. Deca is a must listen for all creative types.

Representative Lyric

I chased dragons now I'm chasin' the dream

They're both mythic

One's a ball and chain the other's the soul's image

Restrained manacle child, so afraid

Like somebody's tryin' to tear the wings out

Of my shoulder blades

- Gabriel Ratchet

5. Open Mike Eagle

You might be familiar with Open Mike Eagle from his Comedy Central series, The New Negroes, or as a frequent collaborator with comedian Hannibal Burress. Father of art rap, Open Mike Eagle's songs have the potential to make you laugh, cry, and come back for more.

Representative Lyric

I chase my poison tail

And get so high that voices fail

I heard that when you in a fucked up space

No one can hear you signal help

I tried to set them straight

Tell them I self-medicate

All they saw's a glitchy video

But then I never show my cards

Instead, I write for stealth

Blah, blah, blah, I cry for help

- Admitting the Endorphin Addiction

6. P.O.S.

Before becoming a hip hop artist, rapper P.O.S. was heavily involved in Minneapolis' hardcore punk scene, earning the moniker "Pissed Off Stef." That influence is present in his socially conscious songs today. I had the pleasure of seeing him play a show in Providence a couple years ago and he did not disappoint.

Representative Lyric

It was buried under a flask and a

Caught peeking from the bottom of a glass

All this nonsense, innocence, common sense, consequence

Indulgence in bourbon, this 'urb, between city King's, it's disturbed

I look around to see the same shit from her

She could just sit silent, watchin' life just pass by in a blur

Ain't it funny, we can sneak into our lives and then stir

Over the perfect things to say and then just choke on the words

- P.O.S. Is Ruining My Life

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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