Look...maybe Hip-Hop is dead, maybe it isnt, but sometimes you just need a break either way. Luckily, the independent scene has been churning out some alternatives that are plenty worthy of your time. Many of them arent Hip-Hop artists per se, but as Hip-Hop has officially become the standard for cool around the world, artists of all genres are becoming just as quick to cite A Tribe Called Quest as an influence as U2.
The five artists on this list are perfect examples. While none of them rap full time (if at all), all of them show their love of Hip-Hop be it in production technique, collaborators, or just their general attitude. They might not be what youre used to, but the originality they bring to the music scene might be just enough of a break from the norm to make yet another Lil Wayne verse a little more tolerable. If you missed any of these artists albums, its time to stop sleeping
5. The Go! Team The English six-member group may not be familiar to many rap purists, but if theyre good enough for Chuck D, theyre good enough for you. Besides one of the games most militant rappers, Proof of Youth features bits and pieces of old school breaks, 70s action show themes, cheerleading and 80s rap courtesy of the female MC simply known as Ninja. The album is fun in a way that catches you off guard and the multi-layered, sample heavy beats are actually more Hip-Hop than half of whats being played on Urban radio these days.
4. Kenna Kennas career has been a constant struggle, but listening to Make Sure They See My Face makes it clear that hes fighting the good fight. The albums quality seriously outpaces its sales, but his loyalty to his music instead of the charts keeps him on the industrys radar and is the reason why high-profile artists like Fort Minor, Nelly Furtado and (of all people) Ashlee Simpson have enlisted him to write songs and support their tours. It might not be too soon before his next album, but whenever it comes, it will almost definitely be worth the wait.
3. Radiohead Besides the fact the recently released In Rainbows is as musically innovative as a Radiohead album should be, the group took it one step further by changing the game of distribution. Instead of going to iTunes or walking into your local record store, fans can only buy their copy of the album from the groups website. The buyers not only get to choose between a digital copy and a deluxe boxed set, but they also get to set the price theyll pay for the music or, if they so choose, pay nothing at all. The groups efforts to cut out the middleman and go straight to their fans is (hopefully) the future of music and a group deserves kudos for being so bold.
2. Justice Right about a year ago, Kanye West had yet another of his famous tantrums at the MTV Europe awards, this time interrupting the acceptance speech being made on behalf of French dance-pop duo Justice. Usually, the conversation about that night turns to a debate on Ye and his ego, but lets not forget that the other group involved in that incident made the dopest dance album to come out of France since Daft Punks Discovery. From the Michael Jackson tribute/MTV Video Award nominated single D.A.N.C.E. to the Three 6 Mafia sampling The Party, Cross is the perfect combination of European dance and American pop and shouldnt be missed by anyone who likes to move.
1. Feist You know, the chick from the iPod commercial. Dont front, at least once this fall, youve spent the better part of your day at work with that 30 second snippet of 1234 looping in your head. Its okay; you dont have to be ashamed to like the song, and any doubts you might have should be dashed not only by The Reminder but her 2004 solo debut Let it Die (which is more Sade than Joni Mitchell). She even got the highest hipster-hop honor in the game when Kanye sampled Gatekeeper for Twistas Well Its Time. Kan couldnt quite wrangle the sample into a great song, but the fact that he tried is at least a good start.