Underground Vs. Overground Part 1 | BeatCulture.net | Weekly Features

A couple of weeks ago, deep house super DJ Jamie Jones and his group Hot Natured entered Britain’s top 40 pop chart with their track ‘Benediction’ – much to the criticism of some fans who accused him of ‘selling out’. He responded on Facebook saying:

‘Personally I’m very proud that with the Hot Natured band project, we were able to touch so many people with this record. But I also want to assure people that this in NO way selling out. Selling out is making music that you don’t particularly like purely for money. We just make songs we love (this will never change) and it seems that a lot of people like them, So for us to then turn around and say you cant like my music your not cool enough is ridiculous’.

HOT NATURED & ALI LOVE – BENEDICTION

House and dance music is a global phenomenon nowadays, whether you consider David Guetta to be credible or not. He is one of the biggest pop stars of the moment. The money in music these days lies within urban or the newly coined EDM term – specifically designed for North America. The relationship between dance music and the UK charts is long standing. Remember classics such as ‘Ebenezer Good’ by The Shamen, ‘Charlie’ by The Prodigy. They were all perceived to be ‘credible’ artists and born out of the rave scene of the late 80’s. So a balance can be achieved. But not always. We shall explore this later.

During the 90’s the term ‘Super DJ’ was coined and DJs such as Fatboy Slim, Judge Jules and Pete Tong toured the world and got paid fortunes for sets. They were the new rock stars. Groups such as Daft Punk, The Prodigy, Basement Jaxx and Faithless flourished but retained loyal fan bases. They had large devout audiences and still retain a solid following to this day without letting go of their credibility. Perhaps this is what Jamie Jones can achieve with his fan base and also his new side project? His sound definitely has that ‘soulful house’ commercially viable (dare I say it Daft Punk) vibe to it.

DAFT PUNK – ONE MORE TIME

With these genres classified as underground music, the musical styles are not generally exposed to the ‘masses’ through advertising, radio, TV play and other mainstream media source. This helps to produce fan bases that are dedicated. Rave and dance culture much like hip-hop culture thrives and is born from underground media such as pirate radio (although not as common these days), events, club nights or raves, independent digital media such as Beatport, HipHopDX, ThisSongIsSick, UKF, DNBA, SBTV etc.

The follower and fans of these genres have to ‘search out’ the music, it is not just fed to them on a plate. Once these same fans see artists sacrifice their musical integrity for financial gain, artists are often labeled ‘sell outs’.

Nicki Minaj, once a highly revered MC from Queens, recently got a lot of attention for her withdrawal from legendary NYC hip-hop show – Summer Jam. This reaction was in response to the, ‘in your face’ and out there pop tune ‘Starships’ being slated by one of the DJs on the station.

Whilst hyping the crowd at the infamous NYC Summer Jam gig, Peter Rosenburg, the Hot 97 hip-hop DJ told the crowd, ‘I see the real Hip-Hop heads sprinkled in here. I know there are some chicks waiting to sing ‘Starships‘ later, I’m not talking to y’all right now. F*** that bulls***!’.

Following his outburst, just hours before her set, Nicki Minaj pulled out!

PETER ROSENBERG DISSES NICKI MINAJ AT SUMMER JAM

NICKI MINAJ – STARSHIPS

Nicki hit back with a live call to Funk Master Flex. Her most poignant point was probably highlighting her 3.5 mill records sale total and being number 1 in four countries, explaining this is why she has to go beyond ‘the hood’ and make pop records, whether people like it or not. But it seems that her following has now moved beyond hip-hop and into the pop arena. Has she lost touch with her roots as an MC?

When MC Hammer brought out ‘Can’t Touch This’, released from the album ‘Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em’, it was to define his entire career. He became untouchable with 10 million album sales, one of the best selling records of all time. He cashed in on every opportunity, dancing for everyone from Pepsi to Kentucky Fried Chicken. His peers believed he had sold out his rap roots. But he also carved a path into the mainstream and gave rap (in whatever form) a mass audience appeal.

MC HAMMER – CAN’T TOUCH THIS

Lets not forget the other most successful white rapper of all time. Not as credible as a certain Detroit MC named Eminem.

VANILLA ICE – ICE ICE BABY

In 1986, rapper Kurtis Blow appeared in a Sprite advertisement, marking the first Hip-Hop artist to represent a brand and expose rap to the public on a massive scale.

KURTIS BLOW FOR SPRITE (1986)

This started a trend that artists from Run DMC to Biggie jumped on.

RUN DMC NEW COKE COMMERCIAL (1988)

BIGGIE ON ST IDES COMMERCIAL

The conflict lies between artists remaining loyal to their fans and maintaining their essence, and wanting success and money.

Remember these fans watched their favourite artist grow via the non-traditional media. Whether that was pirate radio, mixtapes, and live sets in grimy clubs – they are dedicated to the culture.

But what is the key to striking the balance? Is it about finding the credibility with the music and never forgetting the roots of the culture? Look at artists such as Jay Z, Chase & Status and Daft Punk as evidence.

We shall see when we explore this matter further in the coming weeks.

Check out Part 2 next week on BeatCulture.net.

Words by Vickie Fox