By New Times
By Derek Askey
By Mark Deming
By Serene Dominic
By Jason Keil
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Jeff Moses
By Serene Dominic
The labels attached to the hip-hop underground can be condescending. At what point does an underground artist move above ground? It's a question Rakaa asks himself all the time, as he sees his peers go gold and platinum. He also questions the intrinsic undertones of such labels, but says he considers perceptions and perspectives on individual bases.
"It's really difficult to get caught up in labels, because people think in different ways," he says. "If people speak of the underground with endearment -- 'This is my music, and I identify with this' -- I can't complain. It depends where it's coming from. Everything is good, if it's put across with respect. I just try to get to the root of what they're trying to get across to me, and if it's something positive, there it is."
For now, Rakaa and Evidence and Babu are busy bringing The Platformto the masses. From day one, it's been respectful to the art of hip-hop, and Rakaa adds that there's no reason to stop now. "Ultimately, it all comes down to [the fact that] the music matters," he says." More and more people are being exposed to this kind of music on a quality level -- Common went gold, the Roots went gold. These are people who studied the craft. They've been involved with it for years and cross-trained with very talented and legendary people. They've learned from the best and at the same time are pushing forward and have had years to develop their own style and their own professional polish.
"There's nothing overnight," he continues. "Even though we may be making our first appearance in your local magazine or TV station, we've been putting it down for many, many years. It's a matter of a professional music production, professional independent record distribution and publicity work, and people learning their craft and really taking it to the people. That's something we really take pride in. We know we're on the cutting edge of something. Because of what we do, somebody else will be able to sell records. I'd rather have my club packed with people who know we make solid music than have that same club packed to capacity with people who are there because I have a hit single. We're building it up a brick at a time, but it's a solid foundation."