Five of the Most Influential Underground Hip-Hop Labels of the Last Two Decades

Sep 6 20:37 2011 Rob Dabney Print This Article

Most of the trends in mainstream top hip-hop seen today originally came from the underground hip-hop scene. Several major underground hip-hop labels have been key in influencing these trends over the past 25 years. 

Top hip-hop music may rule the radio and the entertainment industry at large,Guest Posting but not all of the most popular songs and styles come ready-made. Rather, many of the top hip-hop artists today either came from underground hip-hop labels themselves, or were influenced by music from underground hip-hop labels.  
Underground hip-hop has influenced all kinds of top hip-hop, from gangster rap to horrorcore. Here are five of the most influential underground hip-hop labels of the last 20 years. 
Rawkus Records: This underground hip-hop label has put out some of the top hip-hop in New York City from the late '90s to today. You won't find any gangster rap on this label. Instead, this is classic New York-style underground hip-hop, with boom-bap beats and street-ready lyrical wordplay. 
Some of the top hip-hop artists who have come from Rawkus include Big L, Mos Def, Pharoahe Monch, and Mos Def. 
Definitive Jux: Definitive Jux, much like Rawkus, represented a part of the underground hip-hop spectrum that was almost the total opposite of gangster rap. The label lasted from 1999 to 2010, putting out wordy, experimental underground hip-hop that traded gangster rap's swagger for downtempo beats and tongue-twisting lines. 
Top hip-hop artists from this label included El-P, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Cage, Murs, Mr. Lif, and Dizzee Rascal. 
Rhymesayers: Rhymesayers is one of the top hip-hop labels in the midwest, based in the somewhat unlikely locale of Minnesota. Once more, the label's sound is miles away from gangster rap, with many of its artists focusing on a highly emotional style of music. 
Some of the label's top hip-hop artists include Atmosphere, Brother Ali, and P.O.S.
Swisha House: Top hip-hop label Swisha House, based in Houston, represents an entirely different side of the underground hip-hop spectrum. Many of its artist do have more gangster rap leanings, but with a definitive Southern twist. Many of the label's releases have been street-popular mixtapes of "chopped and screwed" gangster rap songs.
Otherwise, its top hip-hop artists include southern gangster rap artists like Paul Wall, Lil Keke, and E-Class.  
Psychopathic Records: This is probably the most unusual underground hip-hop label on this list. It was founded by the Detroit duo Insane Clown Posse and is still based there. Some of the artists on the label lean more towards gangster rap, like Blaze ya Dead Homie, while others follow more in ICP's footsteps and tend towards fantasy-driven horrorcore rap. 
Of course, Insane Clown Posse remains the label's showpiece, though they increasingly promote and develop the other groups. 

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Rob Dabney
Rob Dabney

Insane Clown Posse's legacy in underground hip-hop goes much further than just its label. The group has been deeply involved in the Detroit underground hip-hop scene since its earlier days, and has done much to push both artists from the city and artists from the group's unique genre. 
To find out more about this iconic underground hip-hop group, visit its official web site at 

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