What Is an Underground Artist?

by Sasha Maggio Google
Underground artists perform newer styles of music that have yet to become popular in the mainstream.

Underground artists perform newer styles of music that have yet to become popular in the mainstream.

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The term "underground artist" generally refers to a musical artist who performs a style of music that is not quite mainstream. Throughout history, this type of subculture affiliation has existed with different changes in pop culture and musical taste, although the term underground artist is fairly new and in recent years has primarily referred to nonmainstream rap and hip-hop artists.


Swing music began to seriously develop around the 1930s, though changes to music had started to appear since the 1920s, and at the time would be considered, by today's terms, "underground" in nature. Swing music derived from jazz but eventually became its own separate entity. Though not quite as challenged by the public and mainstream music as future musical styles, swing did face some resistance initially and declined with World War II.

Rock 'n' Roll

Rock 'n' roll faced considerably more resistance by pop culture and the general public, in comparison to swing music. Though the development of rock 'n' roll began in the 1940s, mainstream praise didn't come until the 1950s and 1960s. Rock 'n' roll began to influence other aspects of culture, such as fashion, linguistics and social attitudes, and also presented debate for race arguments with the musical style combining aspects from some African-American and Caucasian musical styles.


Hip-hop music began to arrive in the musical underground world in the 1970s. Like other popular musical styles, hip-hop has strong roots in traditional music, particularly from African-American cultures and subcultures, and further developed into its own subculture influencing the attitudes, linguistics and fashion styles of fans and artists as the style became mainstream.


Rap developed with hip-hop, but is considered a subgenre or separate entity altogether. Rap is incorporated into many hip-hop styles, as well as styles of reggae music and some mainstream pop music as well. Modern rap styles began to develop as underground styles in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but the focus of the rap lyrics were more for fun and enjoyment than technique or ingenuity with the lyrics. Unlike other music styles, rap music remains male dominated, despite a few female artists gaining popularity.

About the Author

Sasha Maggio specializes in topics related to psychology, fitness, nutrition, health, medicine, dentistry, and recovery after surgery, as well as cultural topics including Buddhism, Japanese culture, travel, languages and cooking. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and Japanese from the University of Hawaii, as well as a Master of Arts in forensic psychology. She is currently pursuing Medical and PhD programs.

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