America’s Top 5 Underground Rap Artists

Is hip-hop dead? Considering that Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj pass as rap “artists,” it’s tempting to say yes – hip-hop is definitely dead. But there are unsung heroes that keep the game alive. Lurking just beneath the surface of money and fame lie some of the most talented rap artists of all time. The time is long overdue to pay tribute to these musical lyricists.

Aesop Rock.  Recently credited with having the largest vocabulary in hip-hop, Aesop Rock leads the pack in underground rap. Born Ian Matthias Bavitz, this New York native stands at the forefront of alternative hip-hop. Lend an ear to some of his greatest works of art which include “None Shall Pass,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” and “Labor.”

Vinnie Paz. This self-proclaimed Philly scumbag is known for his controversial political views. His outspoken and vulgar style has allowed him to become one of the best rappers in the underground. Best known for his role in the rap group Jedi Mind Tricks, Vinnie Paz remains one of the most respected names in the industry. Some of his best work includes “Uncommon Valor: A Vietnam Story,” “Shadow Business,” and “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train.”

Dessa. It’s about time that a strong, independent woman enter the male-dominated world of rap. Dessa’s peculiar rhymes blend vocals, poetry and humanism into one magnificent harmony. Notorious for being an atheist, Dessa consistently challenges the status quo with her lyrical magic. The fact that she has managed to go largely unnoticed defies any kind of logical comprehension. Some highlights of her work include “Dixon’s Girl” and “Mineshaft II.”

Sage Francis. His song “Crack Pipes” just may be one of the most artistic songs in the history of rap. Originally from Miami, Florida, Paul “Sage” Francis has spent most of his years in Providence, Rhode Island. It is his anomalous sense of flow that is responsible for landing him a spot in the top five. His extraordinary gift for poetics lends itself to a distinct style that is exclusive to his name. Other songs to check out include “Makeshift Patriot” and “Runaways.”

Immortal Technique. The works of this lyricist will leave listeners with goose bumps. Born in Lima, Peru and raised in Harlem, New York, Immortal Technique (real name Felipe Andres Coronel) is a master storyteller. His haunting words are impressive in ways that are both sinister and disturbing. Although some of his music seems to work better as poems rather than songs, he is still one of the most underrated lyricists in hip hop. His most impressive songs are “Dance with the Devil” and “You Never Know.”

Illustration by Felicia Chang.

Illustration by Felicia Chang.

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