The Fault Line: Vol. 1

 SLAP's weekly overview of the underground. 
SLAP’s weekly overview of the underground. 

From an aspiring artist’s perspective, the growth of the internet could be seen as the best thing to happen to underground hip-hop. It’s made it exponentially easier for anyone to share their music with the masses; however, just because it’s available doesn’t mean the masses are necessarily listening to it.

It’s no daunting task to rack up social media impressions by dropping a mixtape link below posts from any major account, but in 2018 it’s almost guaranteed to generate more memes than streams. In the eyes of many, the “underground” is simply an unorganized heap of misplaced ambition, tainted by a perceived lack of talent that makes the work of sorting through too unappealing

For every buzzing artist making media headlines by scoffing at hip-hop’s history, there’s a Huey Briss hovering outside of the major coverage bubble, paying homage to Gil Scott-Heron over boom-bap drums. If you’re weary of the hearing the same sounds dominate the mainstream, turn your head to look at a rapper like Blueface, who’s in a lane of his own with unconventional inflections and humorous wordplay.

Over time that innovation can turn to influence; take Drakeo the Ruler, for example. The South Central rapper has carved out a lane for himself with his creative cadences and coded language, incidentally creating a blueprint for a new wave of artists looking to emulate his sound. Even as he and other members of the Stinc Team fight a murder charge from behind bars, his impact can be heard throughout the city, while he still continues to build his own legacy in real-time.

It’s when that influence becomes widespread that the map truly begins to shift, as a new style validates itself and demands attention. Time and time again we’ve seen how rapidly these changes can take place; two years ago, you’d be hard pressed to find any members of the “SoundCloud rap” scene doing similar numbers to what they’re putting up today. Instead they were toiling away underground, creating music that they themselves were drawn to. For the supporters who’ve been listening since day one as well as those who joined the party along the way, their rise to prominence is a great thing. For those who grimace at each lyric and shudder with every blown out bass line, it’s not a reason to hate — it’s a reason to seek out the next big wave.

Artists need a lot of things to make it in the industry, but there’s one key element they need above all else: fans. If you’re unhappy what you hear in the current music landscape, take the time to peruse for what you do like, and share it with the group chat to help foster the movement. Even if you have no complaints with the current output, explore nonetheless, so that the same sounds can be here tomorrow instead of becoming another passing trend. It takes a past, present and a future for hip-hop to continue to be the juggernaut that it is; if you want that future to turn out the way you like, you’d better get to digging.

And of course, who better to kickstart your search than the good people here at SLAP Media?

Welcome to the first edition of “The Faultline,” a weekly column featuring thoughts and discussions on the world of hip-hop and the m.A.A.d. City we like to call Los Angeles. Along with several hundred words of my rambling opinions, you’ll find a curated list of the best new local music, as well as the perfect mood or setting in which to listen. Let’s get rolling:

For the mean mugs: JAG – “Ventino”

JAG spits harder than the gravel in his hometown of South Central on this one, relentlessly airing out boasts and vengeances without even pausing for a chorus. It’s an onslaught filled with barbed social commentary and clever wordplay throughout, as the rapper snarls over looped violins with passion. A highlight: “Everybody gassed off that Drizzy – Pusha T shit / Kill em both, put em on shirts, push a tee quick.” Sheesh…

For the vibe: Aysha Monet – “Like It” feat. Macc

Aysha Monet’s debut album Don’t Forget is filled with R&B gems, and the Macc assisted “Like It” is just one of them. Hard-hitting synths give the song a hip-hop edge, while Monet croons to her lover with a cold dominance. Play this one when the mood calls for something a little smoother, and dive through the rest of the album if you like what you hear.

For the smoke session: Iamsu! – “If U Want” feat. Drakeo the Ruler

On Iamsu!’s new album 06 Solara, the Bay Area veteran taps in with one of LA’s kings for a laid-back groove with a classic West Coast bounce. Drakeo the Ruler continues his hot streak with another smooth yet menacing verse, gliding over the beat with bravado. It’s the perfect contrast to Iamsu!’s melodic chorus, creating a hybrid track that’s best enjoyed with a hybrid of your own.