Alternative Hip Hop

alternative hip hop

Alternative hip hop, also known as underground hip hop, hit the US/UK music scene in the late 80’s. This form of hip hop continued to grow throughout the 90’s and still exists today. US Groups such as Digital Underground, The Fugees, A Tribe Called Quest, Stereo MC’s and UK artists such as The Streets, Skinnyman, Braintax all work within this intriguing genre to create music that’s new, fresh, and original.

Often filled with political undertones, social commentary, and personal affirmations, alternative hip hop artists strive to create music that’s  forward thinking.

The Appeal of Alternative Hip Hop

Hip hop fans and music critics alike enjoy listening to alternative hip hop music for many of the same reasons. In addition to being easy to dance to or play at a party, the music is also different from other forms of hip hop because artists frequently take risks; for example, mixing disco with rap and country music. Furthermore, alternative hiphop lyrics can be seen as a form of poetry. Artists like Braintax like to tell stories through their rapping, and his lyrics form imagery, as well as making the listener think about some serious topics. For those looking for more than lyrics about bitches, guns and money,  this form of hip hop is very appealing.

And since  indie music in general has become more popular over the years, a new generation of music lovers has discovered the exploratory and intriguing beats and deep lyrics of alternative hip hop.

Collecting Hip Hop Records

With the on-going popularity of hip hop records (and record collecting in general), it shouldn’t be too difficult for those looking for alternative hip hop albums to find some in the stacks at local record shops or online. Given the fact that many alternative hip hop acts such as Digital Underground and The Fugees seldom perform, these albums may be worth more than others.

When collecting alternative hip hop albums, look for acts like Arrested Development, Jungle Brothers, Outkast or UK artists like Contact Play and Jam Baxter. With so many talented artists producing a wide variety of music, you can build an eclectic collection of old and new artists.

As with all ‘alternative’ music,  alternative hiphop’s limited exposure could be just down to a lack of marketing, or a lack of appreciation for creativity and serious lyrics in the mass market. One thing is for sure though – if you can get past your prejudices of rap and hiphop music, and take some time to listen to some alternative hiphop artists, even the most adverse of us may be pleasantly surprised.

The Return of Vinyl

One could say that alternative music and vinyl records go hand in hand, since they are both out of the mainstream.

And although vinyl will never catch up with digital downloads,  it is starting to appeal to a wider audience again, which now includes a bigger reach to a younger generation. To reach out to this new, expanding market, hip hop and other musical artists have started releasing singles as well as entire albums on vinyl again. Collectors should also check book shops, consignment shops, and junk shops as many of these outlets sell vinyl.




Dance Records: The Evolution of Dance Music

evolution of danceIt all started with disco. Played in night clubs around the world throughout much of the 1970’s, the music was fast, upbeat, and created an air of excitement for club goers. From there, dance music morphed and separated in to sub genres including hip hop, house, new wave, techno, dubstep and many, many more. With so many genres to choose from, record collectors will find no shortage of albums for their growing collections.

Mixing Beats

Disco brought about a change in music history that opened up a whole new experience for club goers, DJs, and musicians. A combination of many musical genres, disco incorporated a variety of instruments, both traditional and electric, vocals, and dance. But by the late 1970s, local DJs, musicians, and dancers started experimenting with new sounds and techniques.

Mixing beats from different songs to form one long segment became very popular. DJs relied on two turntables to carefully combine beats to create repetitive music samples. Dancers then created new moves based on these beats. Break dancing and hip hop both rely on changes in the beat to signal dance move progression. By then, other forms of dance music started to emerge during the late 1970s and into the 1980s. These forms relied even more on electronic instruments, drum machines, and synthesizers. But mixing beats remains a musical technique still popular in various forms of dance music today.

House, New Wave, Techno

To keep things fresh in the clubs, DJs and musicians had to create different varieties of dance music. House music, for example, took cues from disco, but relied more on electronic sounds and limited vocals and rhythm changes. Popular in night clubs in larger US cities like New York City and Chicago, House music made its way to UK night clubs and eventually to clubs and night spots around the world.

New Wave, considered a sub genre of punk rock, featured electronic sounds and synthesizers. This sound was very popular in the mid-80’s in both the US and UK. Known for short beats and quirky lyrics, New Wave added a depth to dance music that other genres didn’t have – mostly due to the lyrics and musician vocals.

Techno, made popular during the mid-80’s, is slightly different from both House and New Wave. Mostly instrumental, this form of dance music combines fast and slow progressions that people can sit back and listen to or dance to.

Garage and Dubstep

From the late 1980’s through the 1990’s into today, other forms of dance music have emerged to create even more sub genres. Garage and Dubstep, both considered experimental because of the types of beats mixed by DJs, are darker than other types of dance music. Relying heavily on drum beats, these forms have become mainstream over the years. Many clubs now play Garage and Dubstep regularly.

For record collectors, the variety of dance records is overwhelming. With so many sub genres and offshoots, collectors can build a collection based solely on one form if they want to. This makes collecting lots of fun – and in addition to being collector’s items, these albums are still great to listen and dance to.

Classic Dance Albums

classic dance musicDancing just makes people happy. Whether shakin’ what you got at a local night club or bustin’ a move in the privacy of your own home, dance music can turn a regular evening into the event of the week. Add a turntable and a few classic dance albums  and you can party all night long.

Dance music is a generic term, but most people associate this term with specific musical styles like disco, R&B, funk, go-go, new wave, techno, house, and others that people can easily dance to. Typically upbeat, this music may have fast and slow components, but the goal is still the same – to get people on the dance floor.

Music and Dancing

As long as there has been music, there have people who love to dance. Even people who don’t like to get up and move in front of others can be seen moving their feet to the rhythm. From ballroom dancing to swing to line dancing – there’s always a form of dance to accompany any musical genre and vice versa.

These days anything goes depending on the venue. Some night clubs specialize in dubstep or house music, while others play early or current R&B. Some clubs create theme nights that feature a certain type of dance music – 80’s night, disco fever, or big band.

Classic Dance Albums

Even though dance music is an umbrella term that covers a multitude of musical forms, some records are so closely associated with dancing that they are simply referred to as dance music. According to The Telegraph, the top five dance songs are:

  1. Crazy in Love – Beyonce
  2. Dancing in the Street – Martha Reeves and the Vandellas
  3. Night Fever – The Bee Gees
  4. He’s the Greatest Dancer – Sister Sledge
  5. Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond

As you can see, the broad spectrum of represented on this list just goes to show that dance music incorporates a wide range of musical styles.

Where to Find Dance Albums

You can find dance albums online, used record and book shops, auctions, estate sales, or at local antique shops. Since used albums were probably played often, you need to make sure to carefully inspect the album before buying. Look for any cracks or deep scratches in the vinyl. If buying online, choose a vendor that deals in slightly used or brand new albums.

Dance albums are pretty common so they aren’t as valuable as other genres. But over time, they could be. Instead of looking at your collection as something of monetary value, consider the hours of fun you’ll have dancing and listening to great hooks, bridges, and intros as these songs are filled with often intricate note changes, harmonies, and melodies.

Dance music continues to dominate most music charts. Popular artists like Madonna, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Adele and more release albums that people can easily dance to and get lost in the moment with. Dance music is different from other styles as the music tends to remain upbeat even when the lyrics are not. It would be interesting to know whether people actually listen to the lyrics or if they get so caught up in the beat and sounds, the lyrics become secondary.

Hip Hop Vinyl

hip-hop-vinylHip hop blends a variety of musical sounds from disco to soul into an unmistakable mix of extended beats, repetitive rhythms, and in many cases, spoken word poetry. During the 1970’s when block parties become popular, especially in city neighborhoods like the Bronx, DJs would combine various sounds and beats from records through scratching and crossfading. The results were isolated sounds (extended drum beats and musical hooks) played in sequence to form a new sound.

Used as a backdrop for break dancers, hip hop has evolved over the years to become a well-known and respected genre. Hip hop is much more than one sample played over and over. Most hip hop DJs create unique sounds that may never be heard again – it’s a magical music form that allows people be creative and impulsive at the same time.

Where to Find Hip Hop Records

Many hip hop artists still release singles on vinyl. Many used record and book stores have a section dedicated to hip hop albums. You can also find these kinds of records online or through estate sales and auctions or by contacting record dealers to see what they have on hand.

Because of the popularity of hip hop, there are many records available which means they aren’t as valuable as other musical genres. Some of the earliest recordings (late 70’s and early 80’s) may be collector’s items, however. Look for albums featuring Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Kool Herc, DJ Hollywood, and Grandmaster Flash if collecting early recordings.

1980’s Hip Hop

Famous acts like Run DMC, the Beastie Boys, and LL Cool J helped turn hip hop mainstream. Politically motivated, these artists turned hip hop from street music into a platform in which to bring awareness to many social ills like poverty and racial inequality.

It was also during this time that rap music became popular. Taking a cue from hip hop, rap was also used by many artists including Ice-T and N.W.A as a platform to discuss the injustices of society.

1990’s Hip Hop

Many artists performing in the 1980’s helped move hip hop into the 90’s. Other artists like MC Hammer helped make the genre even more mainstream. It was during this time that hip hop divided into ‘West Coast’ and ‘East Coast.’ Artists on both coasts took the genre and made it their own. Even though the spilt caused some animosity amongst artists, hip hop continued to gain in popularity world-wide.

Hip Hop Today

Hip hop has undergone many changes since it began in the late 1970’s. Many successful artists now incorporate elements of hip hop into their music. With roots in disco, funk, and soul music, hip hop is a versatile genre that can easily adapt to new types of music.

Other musical forms like dubstep take from hip hop to create new and unique sounds. Much darker than traditional hip hop, dubstep relies on repetitive rhythms, drum beats, and record turntables to create a smooth transition between beats.

House Records

house recordsHouse music, developed in the early 1980’s in US cities including Chicago and New York City, followed disco and 1970’s rock music and continues to remain very popular today. House music was supposedly named after The Warehouse, one of the first nightclubs in Chicago to play this new musical form. However, some people believe the term came about because some of the first house music was mixed in people’s homes.

By the mid-1980’s, house music grew in popularity in the UK and slowly made its way through dance clubs all over Europe. This musical form, with its intense back beats and electronic undertones, has branched into several popular subgenres including Euro house, deep house, acid house, electro house, and tech house.

House Goes Mainstream

Thanks to musicians including Madonna, Janet Jackson, and hundreds of DJ’s wanting to play this type of music in clubs and at private parties, house music continues to enjoy mainstream appeal. Many nightclubs even designate certain nights ‘house music’ nights as this music is very easy and fun to dance to.

Combining other genres such as rock n’ roll, classical, and jazz beats, this musical form has undergone several changes over the years. The result is a genre with many interesting subgenres. But each subgenre has that familiar repetitive beat and reliance on electronic keyboards and drum machines that most people instantly recognize. Add vocals and the music becomes much more than just a series of beats and steady rhythms. Words mixed with these beats can create a more soulful, humanistic sound that can make people feel happy, sad, angry, or euphoric.

House Records

Collectors of house records have many new and old recordings to choose from. Because this musical form began in the early 1980’s, vintage house records can be found online, in independent music stores or by contacting other record collectors and dealers.

When looking for house records, collectors should narrow down which subgenres they want to collect to make their search a little easier. Since many well known bands and artists still incorporate house music into their musical styles today, collectors have many recordings to choose from. House music typically relies on 4/4 beats and synthesizers that mimic other musical instruments, particularly the drums. The forms also have a distinctive electronic sound produced by drum machines and sound mixing equipment.

Making Beautiful Dance Music

Repetitive drum beats mixed with sounds created by sound machines are distinguishing characteristics of house music that separate it from other genres including techno and disco. While disco relied on a variety of sounds and beats to get people moving on the dance floor, house is more subtle, depending on the subgenre. Techno typically relies on faster beats with limited vocals. Over the years, many famous DJ’s such as Frankie Knuckles, Juan Atkins, and David Guetta have mixed house music in clubs all over the world.

The future of house is unknown, but still of interest to music lovers as club DJ’s and musicians continue to add to the genre by incorporating different beats and taking from other musical forms to create a unique sound that people enjoy moving to.

Dubstep Records

dubstep recordWith roots in South London, England, Dubstep has become a popular form of dance music all over the world. Short beats with sometimes dark, complicated rhythms and bass lines, Dubstep stands out from other types of commercially successful music as many of these songs are composed in the minor key (most popular music features sounds in the major key). This creates an eerie, earthreal sound that’s often accompanied by repetitive rhythms of commercially popular songs heard on the radio.

Since 2001, Dubstep has steadily grown in popularity. With increased airplay, more and more people now enjoy the sounds and odd harmonies this music provides. Similar to 2-step garage sound, Dubstep is often featured on the ‘B’ side of garage sound records.  Dubstep and 2-step have many characteristics in common such as steady bass rhythms and varying harmonies.

Where to Find Dubstep Records

Dubstep records are easy to find. Many independent music and book shops and online outlets carry these recordings. You can also find this music featured on garage sound and other types of experimental records. As this form of music continues to grow in popularity, more and more recordings become available each year.

Dubstep recordings are available on record, CD, or you can download samples on music websites or video content sites like YouTube. If listing to Dubstep for the first time, you may need to listen to a few songs before you fully understand why this form of music is so popular. For those used to listening to happy, snappy, pop music, this form may not impress at first. But after listening to a few tracks, you will become more comfortable and accepting of this genre.

Popular Artists

According to Spin Magazine, the top 10 Dubstep and ‘Post-Dubstep’ artists are:

  • Skream and Benga
  • Kode9
  • Girl Unit
  • Chase & Status
  • Mount Kimbie
  • Nero
  • Ramadanman
  • Joy Orbison
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • Becoming Real

If new to Dubstep, look for recordings by these artists to really get a feel for the music and how these artists take popular songs and remix them to create a whole new sound.

What the Future Holds

All musical forms continue to evolve, especially if the music has a strong, steady fan following. As people continue to experiment with different sound combinations, the music produced changes and expands to include subgenres, such as ‘post-dubstep.’ For fans and artists, this is very exciting because no one really know for sure where the form will go from here.

But that’s what makes this musical genre so exciting. Through Dubstep, musicians from all different backgrounds have the ability to add their own personal touches. One artist may prefer mixing classical music samples to slow, haunting back beats, while another artist may come from a jazz or big band background. Others have  rock n’ roll backgrounds. Each genre may be infused with Dubstep beats to create a unique sound. And since people can easily share their musical creations online, it’s very easy to become influenced by other Dubstep artists.