1 definition by balkansnewyork

Top Definition
Alternative rap is a type of rap music (that got popular during the late '90s as rap music entered major identity crisis) that self-consciously aspires to distance itself from the rest of the rap scene. Ok, if we bear in mind what current rap music became, that's not so hard to understand, but "alterna/indie/emo" rap is just another side of the caricature that rap music nowadays is. I would say that terms "alternative", "indie", "emo" rap are synonyms for one same thing: a tendency inside rap formed during late '90s music that is dragging rap away from its core, paradoxically as it may sound - no matter how some of those people are swearing that they're trying to "keep rap music in a healthy state".
Mostly, "alterna/indie/emo" rap circuit is based around labels like Def Jux, Anticon and few of them more (like Rawkus early on) and most of the artists inside of that little sect are whites. Of course, targeted public are also sub-urbanite white kids who really would like to get into rap, but have difficulties to comprehend Black (read: street) system of values {code of the street}, so they have those "white, handsome, intelligent, deep, intellectual and emotional" mc-es with whom they could establish better bond than with Jay-Z or 50 Cent, let's say. That said, "alterna/indie/emo" rap also could be called "rap music without the street component". Pretty confusing is that rap music (which traditionally pulled all its potency from the streets, all its rawness, grittiness, directness etc) is now robbed of that, having instead "white, sub-urban" mindset, point of view with which white, sub-urban kids can relate to because they can not stand the rawness of the street.

To be clear, this atmosphere around rap created early on, atmosphere in which white critics and public in general demanded of rap to be socially aware, engaged, smart, useful, productive etc. I'm not saying that this position is maintained only by white people, no. Certain black rap artists got on this bus early on, people like Common, Black Star, The Roots, The Fugees etc, which again rode on the wave created by Native Tongues and gropups like De La Soul, Tribe Called Quest, Black Sheep, Jungle Brothers, but I'd say that Native Tongues would be a different story in many ways than this "second wave of black conscious hip-hop". Possibly, Beck and all hype around "Loser" proved very influential. Artists like El-P, Atmosphere, Aesop Rock, Sage Francis, Cage, Sole, Eyedea, Jedi Mind Trix (black group, to be sure), Buck 65 and what not are pretty deep into taking rap where real rap feels really insecure - white suburbs and that overall frame of mind.

One more important thing to emphasize also is that difference between terms "alterna/indie/emo" rap and "underground" rap exists and it exists big time. Contemporary underground rap ('97 onwards) never gave up on its hardcore, street-wise, rugged and raw integrity, so there is huge difference between artists like Kool Keith, Godfather Don, Scaramanga (Sir Menelik) or MF Doom on one side and type of guys like Sage Francis, Cage or Slug from Atmosphere on the other, although many people do not see or feel that.
Those are two pretty clearly different point of views and angles of approach to rap music.
white sub-urbanite: "Oh yes, Sage Francis' "Journals" are so deep, profound, and emotional, when I listen to it it's almost like Cobaine. Finally, I can relate to some rap music that's deep and thoughtful, and not violent, agressive, senseless, arogant, mysoginistic, blah blah blah. I found alternative rap very pleasing to me, a person who usually really would not give a fuck about rap music".

real rap fan: "Go listen to some Cage or Aesop Rock - you'd like those pretentious wankers that have nothing of a flavor, too".
by balkansnewyork April 22, 2008

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