by Peter Duell
One can safely say that Spokane’s hip-hop scene is lacking. Nonetheless, sophomores Niko Aberle and Jacob Dansereau are attempting to inject just a little more life into it with their radio show, Underground Railroad on Whitworth.fm.
Dansereau and Aberle get behind the Whitworth.fm microphone Sunday nights at 7 p.m. to deliver two solid hours of underground, lesser-known hip-hop. They play artists such as De La Soul, Handsome Boy Modeling School and Jurassic 5.
Aberle, the creator of Underground Railroad, did not initially expect the show to be where it is today.
“I am friends with Jacob and knew his taste of music so I asked him if he would be interested in doing an underground hip-hop show,” Aberle said. “He said yes and here we are today.”
Largely undiscovered, underground hip-hop artists are no different than their mainstream counterparts. Their lyrics tell of hardship and loss, but also of love and community. Many themes in hip-hop are often deemed negative. Some of these messages glorify violence and drug use. Sex and hedonistic lifestyles are often dominant in lyrics.
But it is important to look deeper at the reason why such themes are present and why hip-hop artists focus so strongly on them.
“Hip-hop is a perspective. It’s an artistic tool that is used to convey a message. All of the bad is part of the music — it tells a story,” Aberle said. “These artists have gone through drug addictions and alcoholism and family and gang violence. Those themes are present because it’s the artists’ story.”
The Underground Railroad plays hip-hop that exemplifies the artists’ lives.
“That’s what it comes down to, is showing hip-hop as a story of a person’s life, a story of that person’s hardship and how they could overcome it or sometimes not overcome it,” Aberle said.
Underground Railroad includes a portion featuring anyone who wants to simply get behind a microphone and rap. Aberle and Dansereau call it “Sunday Night Cipher” and contribute to that portion of the show themselves.
Every Sunday at 8:15 p.m., Aberle and Dansereau speak their thoughts in musical form with freestyle rap. Only one person has taken them up on their open microphone offer. Northwest Christian High School student, Zach “Zeal” Taylor, son of Whitworth President Beck Taylor, entered the booth on Oct. 14 to chat with the hosts and freestyle rap.
Taylor has more than 20,000 views on Youtube and is releasing a mixtape on Oct. 31.
“It all started when I was recording with a rock band mic in my friend’s basement,” Taylor said. “We were covering the song ‘Forever’ just for fun. My friends started noticing some actual talent coming from my verse. A month later I purchased my first mic and started writing songs.”
Taylor performed a song in the studio that he had written and chatted with Aberle and Dansereau about his inspirations, his aspirations and his parents’ support of his music.
Technically, Aberle could end the show with the conclusion of the semester and the class, but he may have other plans for the show.
“I really enjoy putting on the show,” Aberle said. “Jacob and I mesh well and it’s a time to simply have fun and play good music. I don’t know the future of Underground Railroad, but I am definitely not opposed to carrying it on into next semester.”
Contact Peter Duell at firstname.lastname@example.org