Has there ever been a better time for the independent hip hop artist to thrive?
Independent artists can easily connect with fans, get invitations to live shows, and make money while at it. Unlike about a decade ago, when most new talent needed association with industry bigwigs and producers to really break the glass ceiling, one can easily make a website, and start cultivating an audience right from day one. All an independent rapper needs to create, distribute and promote their music is a laptop, and some determination.
In this article, we’re going to look at the top 8 hip hop artists in the game right now. This list is a combination of well-known veterans, talented new comers, savvy business minds, and lyricists from New York, LA, Atlanta, and all over the country.
The artists who’ve been featured to this list embody the grind, hustle, entrepreneurial spirit and determination that represents hip hop culture.
1) Tech N9ne
This is the number one hip hop artist in the game today. Tech N9ne has proved himself to be the true king of the independent hip hop game for years on end, and nobody has really come strong enough to unseat him. This hip hop artist from Kansas City, along with the likes of Mac Miller, is one of very few independent rappers who’ve made it to Forbes yearly Hip Hop Cash Kings list. Others to have made it to this hall of fame include Eminem, Puff, Birdman, and Hov.
Tech and Travis O’Guin, his partner and Strange Music CEO, have built a very powerful organization that’s raking in 8 figures each year. Most of their profits come from touring merchandise and music sales. To be independent means being able to do things by yourself, to cut the middleman and create, distribute, organize, book, promote, negotiate and market for yourself. If there’s anyone who’s been able to do this super-well, that’s Tech N9ne.
2) Chance The Rapper
Chance The Rapper is always shutting down major label deals and sticking to his own independent grind. Based on a Complex article on the cost of booking rappers, it appears that Chance is doing a $35,000 fee per show. That’s enough money to easily rake in between a million and three million in annual income, even after subtracting expenses. And this is notwithstanding all the money he makes with endorsement deals, feature appearances, and writing music for other artists.
Chance is faring quite well on his own, and there isn’t any chance why he might want to sign up with a label (unless, of course, the label is offering 100% creative control – which is highly unlikely – and an obscene amount of money).
3) Joey Bada$$
Joey Bada$$ is no less than the shining star of the New York hop scene. Aged just 21 years, this guy has got a lot of vision for his brand. Joey has managed to cultivate a loyal fan base who’ll follow him everywhere he goes. His debut album, B4.Da.$$, launched at position 5 on the Billboard 200, and managed to sell over 53,000 copies in just the first week.
4) Tyler, The Creator
Tyler, The Creator appears to be following up in the steps of Puff Daddy. The guy has got at least three very successful albums under his belt right now, and he’s already laying the groundwork for his own music empire that spans radios, record labels, online and TV. For his age, Tyler has accomplished just about anything every young artist dreams about. He’s even collaborated with Kanye and Lil Wayne on his gold single ‘Yonkers’.
5) Nipsey Hussle
Nipsey Hussle has been an independent artist for a very long time. Even before signing to Epic Records, he was already on track to be one of the best hip hop artists of our time. With his bold Crenshaw campaign, Nipsey has managed to set a new standard for hip hop music. Together with Chance The Rapper, Nipsey has taken ‘independent’ in the hip hop game to a whole new level. With the Mailbox Money hit in 2014, Nipsey charged $1,000 for a single copy.
6) Yo Gotti
Yo Gotti comes across the board as a low-key hustler who’s making some quiet money in the industry right now. Although he might be the most underrated independent rapper right now, don’t get it twisted, his music is deep. Since releasing his ‘Youngsta’s On a Move Up’ tape back in 1996, Yo Gotti has never run out of moves. He signed a distribution deal with Epic Records for his Collective Music Group label in 2013.
7) Fetty Wap
Next to Future and Drake, this New Jersey rapper is the hottest artist in the game right now. The guy has got some unbelievable songwriting up his sleeves, and a distinct melodic style. Fetty has managed to score one hit record after the other. His self-titled debut, for once, sold 129,000 equivalent albums in just week one. For an independent rapper without a lot of practical exposure in the industry, this is no small achievement. Fetty has managed to cultivate a loyal fanbase who support his work. Without a doubt, this is one of the best rappers today.
8) Young Thug
This list could not be completed without mentioning Young Thug. Although the guy has gotten himself into one of the most complicated record label situations in history, he’s still an indie to reckon with. Back in 2016, he was said to be signed with 300 Entertainment, officially managed by Rich Gang, and then he also had ties to 1017 Records. The guy has got a lot of interesting and exciting hip hop vibe up his sleeves.