Alternative hip hop is a subgenre of hip hop which surfacedin the late 1980s during the “golden age of hip hop” – a period known for itsinnovation and reinvention of the hip hop genre. Many artists contributed to itsdevelopment; to name a few were East Coast rappers Beastie Boys, De La Soul, ATribe Called Quest, and Jungle Brothers, West Coast artists such as DigitalUnderground, The Pharcyde, and Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, and last but notleast Southern acts like Goodie Mob, Arrested Development, and Outkast – again,just to name a few. By the time the 1990s came around, alternative hip hop sawa huge rise in popularity, but was forced back into the underground as it was ultimatelyintercepted and subsequently drowned out by a more dominant genre known asgangsta rap.
Music critics deemed that the subgenre had been a failure.However, a shift happened around the new millennium.Gangsta rap hit a wall and was no longer dominating the mainstream market.Instead, the public gained a newfound interest in indie music, and combinedwith artists such as Gnarls Barkley, Outkast, and Kanye West who were known fortheir fusion of genres, alternative hip hop once again took the spotlight andregained its place within the mainstream.A turning point for hip hop happened in 2007 whenKanye West’s album “Graduation” and 50 Cent’s “Curtis” released on the sameday, resulting in a record-breaking sales performance for both albums. The outcomewas in West’s favor, and industry observers view it as being responsible for reshapingthe course of hip hop.
Ben Detrick of XXL wrote, “If there was ever a watershedmoment to indicate hip hop’s changing direction, it may have come when 50 Centcompeted with Kanye in 2007 to see whose album claim superior sales. 50 losthandily, and it was made clear that excellent songcrafting trumped astreet-life experience. Kanye led a wave of new artists—Kid Cudi, Wale, LupeFiasco, Kidz in the Hall, Drake—who lacked the interest or ability to creativenarratives about any past gunplay or drug-dealing.” while Rosie Swash of TheGuardian stated that it, “highlighted the diverging facets of hip-hop in thelast decade; the former was gangsta rap for the noughties, while West was thethinking man’s alternative.”