Audiences love an underdog. As it happens, the underground music industry is known for artists thumbing their noses at the corporate structure that mass produces successful musicians. In the underground, the traditional mindset of corporate control is rejected; but without corporate backing, these artists are generally viewed as the underdogs of the music industry. We love the thrill of watching these underdogs prevail in the face of adversity.
Some think that alternative artists are selling out to big business, which may be happening because of the new climate in music. Making money as an underground artist was difficult before, but new technology such as streaming is biting into this even more, and artists are having to come up with novel ideas to survive like endorsing products for income. Others argue that it’s impossible to even be underground in the age of the internet.
Being an underground artist has other characteristics, including flying under the radar of the populace, and there is little reference to them in the mainstream media. They also remain unsigned to a major label even after gaining viral attention through other avenues. One such artist who meets most of these criteria is Corbin, an oddball R&B-alternative musician.
Corbin came on the scene as Spooky Black and Lil Spook, attracting a devoted cult of fans who loved his mournful brand of lo-fi R&B and hip-hop. Although alternative R&B had already emerged in several forms prior to Corbin’s appearance on the scene, with artists like Janelle Monae, Elle Varner, Frank Ocean and The Weeknd, who intrigued and caught on with their vastly different styles. Today, artists are blending R&B with elements of electronica, pop and hip-hop, and there are no restrictions on the direction. The new wave of alternative R&B has blurred the edges of what is normally regarded as R&B. However, what is common among most, if not all, is that these are non-conformist artists who display a “do-it-yourself” attitude – tossing the “usual” or the “average” straight out of the window.
Corbin Smidzik came on the scene in 2014 as an ordinary 16-year-old. He crooned funeral-like songs in lo-tech videos, totally against the norm. The popularity of the videos on WorldStarHipHop and YouTube gradually gained some traction on music blogs, and soon enough – a viral sensation was born. In real underground fashion, Corbin still likes to stay out of the limelight.
In a significant departure from mainstream R&B artists who crave the spotlight, he would be inconspicuous in a crowd. He collaborates with fellow Minnesotans like Bobby Raps, preferring to fade into the background, and yet when he sings – people pay attention. So reticent for the limelight that the release of Destrooy in 2017 was a surprise to many, as was his first complete album Mourn.
The underground music genre has R&B in its sights, and the artists that are considered alternative R&B each have varied styles that are a departure from mainstream R&B. Most strive to maintain uniqueness in the face of mass-produced artists, maintaining their independent sound. Corbin is one such artist, managing to keep away from the production monster. He has his feet planted underground and is standing tall.