Wednesday, June 11, 2008
video #57: Diverse - Escape Earth
Did the independent hip-hop bubble finally burst? I'm sure it still has an underground following bigger than I can possibly imagine, and that it would still be going strong even if the Internet hadn't helped push labels like Def Jux and Anticon to prominence in the early years of this decade. But the new audiences who flocked to those labels (Rhymesayers and Mush too, I guess) seemed to give up on it all around 2006. Was it too much to keep up with? Did anti-violence/Bush themes run their course? In listening to music that promoted the virtue of authenticity, did listeners begin to question their own as they struggled to reconcile owning CDs by El-P and The Shins? Does this even matter? Does "indie rap" need those listeners again? I'm sure some fans might find the very question offensive. I can't say I have an answer for it.
None of this was Diverse's fault. One A.M. came out on the Chocolate Industries label back in 2003, featuring contributions from Mos Def, Jean Grae, Lyrics Born and Vast Aire, and production from Prefuse 73 and RJD2. All of these musicians have been raked over the coals by critics at one point or another since, either by failing to live up to past masterpieces (The Cold Vein, One Word Extinguisher) or by sullying their reputation with confusing career moves (The Third Hand, The Italian Job). One A.M. was widely-praised but seemed to do nothing but earn Diverse the status of "artist to watch" or "rapper on the rise" who would surely do great things, but not just yet. Chicago critics had visions of him riding Kanye and Twista's coattails to stardom. This never really happened.
I'm hoping this video is the first sign of a new album, and that Mr. Jenkins is still able to employ some of the credibility he earned with his previous releases. He's a great MC with a good ear for producers. Impossible to pin any kind of gimmick on him, either. That said, I don't expect that anyone on the Internet is still going to care about him. Enough of them sincerely seem to like 'Lil Wayne, though. Maybe I should give him a chance, too.
In the meantime, kind of an unfortunate choice of title here considering Chicago's Christian industrial pop perennials Escape From Earth, whose following was perplexingly huge last time I checked. Haven't heard from them in a while, maybe 7th Heaven beat them in a battle of the bands and the shame was too much for them to go on.