Underground is Dead, Long Live the Underground
R.I.P. the underground. R.I.P. the realm where art trumped public opinion and artists didn't need critics between them and their audience. Things evolve and change and that is part of the natural order. When the underground and the internet first met it was a righteous occasion. Artists flourished in unprecedented ways, rag-tag touring circuits blossomed into proven and consistent avenues of success, art expanded and grew and developed, audiences feasted on a heretofore unimagined smorgasbord of styles and artists, and dedicated practitioners with business sense were able to make a good living. That's pretty much all gone though.
The underground has been turned into nothing more than a proving ground for the lowest realm of mainstream record industry exhaustion. Artists become popular in the underground, sign with labels, get used for 1-3 years (or not at all), and then they depart to oblivion. The underground isn't where artists of brilliant capacity connect with an audience eager for art that touches their soul. The underground has become the place where a constantly rotating crop of artists compete to see who can create the most derivative, simplified, and neutered music. Their music is presented to an audience eager to indulge in a collective sense of thoughtlessness and isolation. The audience doesn't want to explore the intricacies of art together, they look to convene over the most banal vagaries imagined, and pretend that no one else exists--or pretend that they themselves don't exist. The underground now produces music that distracts people from reality, just like the mainstream. The only difference is that it is meant to distract a smaller community who think of themselves as somehow enlightened and elevated for being in awe of this reductive and myopic art.
So how then, in the era of connectivity, when information is so widely and readily available have we wound up with a culture that values such narrowed perspectives, and such diminished networks? In the past when underground acts came to town it drew out a social contingent, a people network that was ready to convene and share an experience. But that doesn't happen anymore. I have watched legends of the underground--who forged the very networks that today's underground thrives upon--play to less than 10 people, and sell so few records they barely survive. I'm not lamenting anything though, I'm not saying people aren't getting what they deserve, however, we all deserve better.
We're not in the end of days, and these aren't the worst times ever for music. They are some of the best, if not the greatest. As a rapper I can tell you that 15 years ago I used to get threats for the kind of music I make, now my music fits right alongside some very accomplished artists who are widely accepted as the best doing it. I don't even think that it's bad that we now have a minor league for the mainstream. I have never been fond of trying to declare art as bad (unless we're beefin, and then I might just have to shit on you, but I don't even like feuding with people), and I think when people make art the world is a better place, even if I don't necessarily like that art or what it stands for. Making art makes the world a better place, and it makes people better people.
The underground is not what it used to be. There is a need to replace much of what is gone, and no one has done it yet. So, how do we move forward? What does it take to build a new underground? How do you build a new moon when you need new waves in a new place where water doesn't go? Well, you don't. But, you do. You start, you fail, you continue, and eventually you will be amazed. Rad Reef doesn't have the solutions, we just have some options for doing something. That's why we will be featuring writings from people who make records. We're not gonna give you reviews, we're gonna give you words from the artists themselves. That's why we're introducing Mindcrate, a collection of custom sample kits from people who make rad sounds. We know you make music too, so we want to find a way to create an experience that lets us all share in the creation of art. That's why we're releasing music made by artists who are capturing the brilliance of what it means to be alive in this era of information and connection.
I know there's more to it than this cause I've lived it. I know other people who have too. And I know people want more than what's out there. People want to be in love with art, people want to surround themselves with like-minded individuals in pursuit of good times in life. And given that it's way easier to get access to music, connect with people, and learn about more people and music we should be living more futuristically. What we have feels like the future, but it's too caked with the dust of the past for us to live it like the future. We're some past-ass motherfuckers runnin around in future-ass clothes acting like we always have. Let's put the clothes down, and change ourselves then see how the future feels, instead of just obsessing over how it looks. Let's smell the future together.