"Elements of Style" - 2001, Joshua Bell and Cody Hanson
F. Stokes rapping about falling in love with a prostitute at age 10, over a dark and slinky Paper Tiger beat. It sits well within the tellingly slim canon of rap songs that empathize with women of the night, detailing the strangeness of his sexual coming-of-age surrounded by a pimp father and all that entails. Stokes is especially strong with these tales of his early life, and he’s definitely had a storied past. I’m so glad Stokes hooked up with the Doomtree crew; his dark but bouncy and reflective flow was made for a beat like this.
Mary Tyler Moore Statue says Vote No.
I wrote this list down the other night while arguing on Twitter about a list of “underground” rap albums that appeared on another site. That list - like so many contemporary conversations about indie/undie/backpack rap - tended to skew in favor of the more visible, 21st century imprints like Rawkus, Def Jux and Stones Throw. As I mentioned on Twitter, I suspect a lot of that has more to do with branding and access than actual quality.
By the turn of the century the bigger labels had secured better distribution deals and PR situations as they simultaneously shifted away from vinyl and tapes and singles and EPs towards full length CDs that squares could purchase in Best Buy. (Fondle ‘Em, hands down the most consistent label in this scene, existed almost entirely on vinyl and as a point of pride never did promos or publicity. I guess that seemed noble at the time…) Even while the music was collapsing under the weight of emo bangs and cartoon sponsorships, the legacy was just beginning to codify. So the list that follows is my meager attempt to counterbalance that bias. It’s non-comprehensive, mostly comprised of the tapes and records that I remember listening to in high school when this loosely defined strain of underground rap still felt like a little secret and not the default hip hop choice for middlebrow white college kids and Onion AV Club readers. No repeat artists and no releases with major label distribution (initially?) All omissions are purely malicious.