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The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

How modern hip-hop is rising from the underground

Connor Youngberg

Hip-hop is still the No. 1 most listened to music genre in the U.S., according to Statista. However the number of people actually listening is declining year by year.

Record producer Juicy J recently claimed that hip-hop sales are down by 40% in 2023, with the genre not seeing a number one album this year until Travis Scott’s “Utopia” and a No. 1 song until Doja Cat’s “Paint The Town Red,” according to Billboard. This may be due to an overall decline of the genre, and the fact that artists such as Morgan Wallen and Taylor Swift have been dominating the charts this year.

However, the state of hip-hop itself is changing. With the streaming era in full swing and artists now gearing some of their music towards social media platforms, hip-hop is moving into a new era.

TikTok has had a massive influence on the music industry. Sped up and slowed down versions of hip-hop songs have taken over the app. Mainstream hip-hop artists such as Lil Uzi Vert, Cardi B and Offset have participated in this trend in 2023, and it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.

On top of the industry changing, the artists behind the mic are changing as well. As time goes on, more and more of the icons from the 2010s are planning their retirement. Massive artists from this decade who sold a ridiculous amount of records, including Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and Drake, are likely going to release the last of their albums during the 2020s.

Drake and J. Cole, in particular, will hang it up sooner rather than later, with the former publicly saying he is taking a one-year hiatus from music and J. Cole hinting that his upcoming album “The Fall Off” may be his last.

With this revelation in mind, artists who have grown their following over the last five or so years are going to have to step up and take the mantle sooner rather than later.

The underground scene of hip-hop is as popular as ever. With an underground composed of lesser-known artists, it’s harder to gain traction. However, with the aforementioned lack of quality in mainstream hip-hop, more and more listeners are turning to the underground for new music and it’s showing in the numbers.

What makes an artist “underground” is a tricky subject to tackle, with different definitions making it hard to tell. But generally, an underground artist is someone with a slight cult following that has allowed them to transcend into the spotlight when given the chance. Eventually, an underground artist can grow enough support and popularity to rise to the mainstream spotlight. Most mainstream artists start in the underground.

Underground hip-hop artist Ken Carson’s new album “A Great Chaos” went head-to-head with Offset’s new release “Set It Off,” and the numbers were a bit surprising. Although Offset sold more album units, Carson’s album was streamed by over 10 million more people during its first week, according to Spotify streaming numbers.

Underground artists have been producing on the Billboard charts as well. Yeat, known for his unique production and language, recently charted at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 with his feature on Drake’s new album “For All The Dogs.” This is the highest Yeat has ever charted in his career, and with the 23-year-old slated to release a new album before the end of the year, he may see even more success on the charts.

But why should a hip-hop listener care about the underground, and makes them so special? The current pool of underground artists, such as the aforementioned Yeat and Ken Carson are beginning their ascent into the mainstream. Both artists and their unique sounds might be some of the individuals responsible for carrying the next generation of hip-hop.

The growing popularity of the underground scene is one of the more exciting and interesting stories the hip-hop genre has seen in a while. But is it enough to save hip-hop from its decline? Only time will be able to tell.

Hip-hop is one of the most exciting and unique bodies of music currently existing today. There are multiple different subgenres with their own sets of rappers and production styles, which means there is something for everyone. The genre will always have a place in the music industry no matter how big or small that role is. However, in order for hip-hop to advance forward, mainstream artists in the industry will need to step up and bring quality, not quantity, to the ears of millions.

Whether or not the underground scene will have any part in that is still to be seen, but it’s certainly starting to make an impact. This might just change the type of music you’re listening to, and who’s making it.

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Connor Youngberg
Connor Youngberg, Associate Multimedia Editor

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