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Influential Artists You've Never Heard Of

By Joel Watson
On May 11, 2011

Throughout music history the success of musicians is largely based on chance. Some artists are heard to never be forgotten, while others seem to slip through our fingers without fully achieving the recognition that they deserve. Their songs are lost somewhere in the seemingly infinite amount of new songs and artists that continually pop up out of nowhere. Not only are some of these artists breezed over, but many of them are a great source of inspiration for other artists, but are never actually recognized by fans. It is about time that listeners pay their respects to the unknown influential artists that have provided a strong foundation for the music listened to today.Up first in the hip hop genre is a group known by the name A Tribe Called Quest. This rap collective was one of the first to truly master the mellowed out jazzy vibe that is still prevalent in today's hip hop music. With their song "Jazz" they truly capture the essence of their music with the chorusing claim "We got the jazz, we got the jazz." Today's music artists like N.E.R.D. are highly influenced by the tribe's smoky bar jazz style. Kid Cudi even remade their song "Buggin' Out" with different lyrics but the same song, which just goes to show how timeless their beats are.

The next artist on the list was a highly influential rock musician and was actually sampled in A Tribe Called Quest's song "Can I Kick It." His name? Lou Reed. Mostly known for his work with The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed was one of the few musicians who was able to remain influential through many different musical movements. While writing songs for The Velvet Underground in the 60's, his experimentation with odd song structures and hauntingly minimalistic instrumentations was way ahead of its time. Proving that he could stand the test of time, he changed his style around the early 70's to fit the glam rock movement that was gaining momentum. It was during this time that Lou Reed released his classic song "Walk On the Wild Side" off of his "Transformer" album. He is still releasing music today and was even a special guest performer on the new Gorillaz album "Plastic Beach."

One of the groups that could have ended up being the poster band for psychedelic music in the mid 60's is Moby Grape. Unlike Jefferson Airplane who was successfully releasing music around the same time, Moby Grape's sound was buried in the political aspects of music and ultimately ruined because of bad managing. They were, however, able to release one highly influential album before their unfortunate bankruptcy that one of the earliest. Jeff Tamarkin describes the band by saying, "Moby Grape could have had it all, but they ended up with nothing, and less."

Lastly, a band whose sound fell beneath the looming shadow of The Beatles but never quite achieved the same success were The Zombies. Another band from the 60's, the Zombies music was similar to other 60's pop groups such as the Beatles and the Beach Boys, their music relied heavily on harmonies and catchy melodies. Although they had many great songs the only one that seemed to do well on the billboards was their claim-to-fame "Time of the season." Because of this they are labeled as a one-hit-wonder group, but in reality their almost eerie spin on pop music has been a driving force for many impendent lo-fi bands such as Neutral Milk Hotel.

Each of these artists are great listens and extremely influential, but it is unlikely that you would hear their names mentioned in any mainstream media. A lot of their music was just too far ahead of its own time and because of this people never really jumped on the bandwagon. Although, now looking back at them we can clearly see that each one had a solid impact on the music scene at some point in time. If you are looking for some good music to be inspired by, look no further than these incredibly underrated artists.


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