By Kate Bishop
Underground hip-hop is what many may call “virgin hip-hop”. Torn away from flashy cars, million dollar “blinging” rings and shake-till-you-drop “booty” dancers, it shatters the all too well-known stereotype that can often surround hip-hop. It is a socially conscious art form that has drawn many to its cause.
Xolile “X” Madinda is one of them. He is an underground hip-hop artist in Grahamstown who has always loved music. “I’ve always felt that it is our responsibility as artists to share knowledge and educate people,” says Madinda. His own personal encounters and experiences drew him into the underground hip-hop scene along with his interest in music, politics and the social constraints around him.
Underground hip-hop allows you to step out the box and really listen to the issues of ordinary people. Where does commercial hip-hop fit in you may ask, and why does there seem to be a waging difference between the two?
“Underground hip-hop is very different because it aims at directly addressing issues that are prevalent in the world; in contrast to commercial music such as 50 Cent who uses foul language and whose music videos are riddled with thin models which detract from the issues that he deals with,” explains Madinda.
There is a great difference between underground and commercial hip-hop. “The content of commercial hip-hop depends a great deal on the record and what they want their image to be it kills creativity, whereas underground hip-hop is more interested in the skill of the writing, how creative a person is rather than being constrained by regulations,” explained Madinda.
However, one can not ignore the huge financial differences that come with both territories. Commercial hip-hop is all but poor.
Despite there being very little money in the underground hip-hop industry, it allows freedom and the chance to take over minds with words rather than sway the public with money and the image of the glamorous life. “Commercial rap feeds from the underground issues, but dilutes it and glamorises issues, profanity without shame,” says Madinda. The underground industry brings together the community and creates a special bond between those who are involved as it is a peaceful way of protesting against what is wrong.
Underground hip-hop is uncommercialised and encourages you to express your opinion and be creative to find people who are interested in what your opinion is. The genre is following expanding throughout the country as the movement continues to break new ground. Break-dancing, beat-boxing and freestyling, spoken word all merge into one collaborative medium and have become an integral part of the culture and lifestyle held within underground hip-hop.
The main issue that Madinda addresses is gender inequality. “I don’t want to fight for women, because they can do that for themselves, but I want to fight with them,” he says. It is significant that someone, a man, who has some control over the public perception, is fighting for a good cause and is opposed to referring to women as “bitches” in his songs as so many other rappers do. This shows courage and is an example of what underground hip-hop stands for: fight for what you believe in.
You can catch Madinda and his group Revel 8 at the National Arts Festival this year in a dance performance combining various styles. His album will be released this June so look out for the Def Boyz.