Before major record labels realized they could cash in on hip-hop music it was underground. Rap no matter how benign was considered "street music" and sold on cassettes and vinyl at mom and pop record shops, swap meets, hand to hand and out of the trunks of cars. Small independent labels took the do-it-yourself approach to manufacturing, distribution, marketing and promotion and made their artists local celebrities (and fortunes for themselves.) Even now in 2013, after rap music has become part of the mainstream and a cash cow for major labels, the independent spirit hip-hop started with still prevails.

The indie hustle has gone digital and local heroes now have international followings. The only problem is that the stars of the independent rap world don’t get nearly enough shine or credit. The Boombox is here to change that—with your help of course.

Welcome to the Underground Kings tournament where we spotlight 32 of the most influential indie rap acts ever and let you, the fan decide which one is the greatest. The bracket-style competition is split into two categories: “O.G.s”— artists who have been putting out music professionally for a decade or more—and “Newbies” who’re relatively new to the game but who have nonetheless had a huge impact. Over the course of the next few weeks you’ll have a chance to vote for your favorites in head-to-head match-ups until we finally crown the Underground King: The Greatest Indie Rapper Ever. (Don't worry groups can share the crown too.)

Check out all the contenders for Underground King in the brackets below and use the buttons to click through to cast your votes. Round 1 closes on Oct. 31 at 3:59PM ET so get crackin'. You can vote once an hour and we don’t limit the number of times you can vote for your favorite indie rapper so if you’re rooting for an artist keep coming back to make sure that they win.


Since we’re calling this competition “Underground Kings” we have to shout out the original Underground Kingz, Trill O.G. Bun B and Pimp C (R.I.P.) of UGK who got their start on indie label Bigtyme Recordz over 20 years ago. Salute.

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