Letters from the Issue of June 30, 2005

Feuding neighbors, art objects, and combative cops

Bob Macron

Brooklyn, New York

Let Us Seek Guidance from Urbandictionary.com What dost thou rap and fumble?:While I thought Mosi Reeves's article about Rhymesayers, "Made from Scratch" (May 26), was pretty well put together and informative, I have to take issue with one glaring misstatement: "In 2002, Atmosphere's God Loves Ugly sold more than 100,000 copies, becoming the first underground rap album to reach öindie gold' (a feat regularly achieved by rock bands such as Bright Eyes and Death Cab for Cutie) since Blackalicious's Blazing Arrow in 2000." Although you state this as some sort of concrete statistical evidence, you neglect to define "underground rap." Admittedly, the labels and artists I mention are not in the same aesthetic category as the ones you champion in your article. But to act as if some sort of independent rap ground has been broken by Rhymesayers when Too Short & Dean Hodges were moving those numbers and then some twenty years ago in Oakland out the trunk of their car is to rewrite hip-hop history. Maybe I'm reading into things here, but really the only construct for underground rap I can think you're using here is the belief that Atmosphere is underground because it makes music that critics and (often white/suburban) kids who wouldn't otherwise listen to rap would enjoy. The labels and artists I mention may not be archetypically positive or "conscious" or "emo" or avant-garde (most of these terms loosely translate to "made for college kids and white dudes"), but they are equally important in influencing a different kind of underground movement. If you asked these artists in their prime what they were making, they'd tell you it's underground rap. And perhaps, more important, rappers and entrepreneurs in every hood in America have been using this model and making more money than they would within the major-label infrastructure. I wouldn't be surprised if the El-P's and Saadiqs didn't draw from similar inspiration. Andrew Noz Trenton, New Jersey
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