5 Of The Best Independent Artists In Hip Hop

5 Of The Best Independent Artists In Hip Hop


July 5th, 2015


In celebration of Independence Day, we celebrate five of the best independent artists in the game.

Once upon a time in a universe far, far away, HipHopDX used to host blogs. Through Meka, Brillyance, Aliya Ewing and others, readers got unfiltered opinions on the most current topics in and beyond Hip Hop. After a few years, a couple redesigns and the collective vision of three different Editors-In-Chief, blogs are back. Well, sort of. Since our blog section went the way of two-way pagers and physical mixtapes, Twitter, Instagram and Ustream have further accelerated the pace of current events in Hip Hop. Rappers beef with each other 140 characters at a time, entire mixtapes (and their associated artwork) can be released via Instagram, and sometimes these events require a rapid reaction.

As such, we’re reserving this space for a weekly reaction to Hip Hop’s current events. Or whatever else we deem worthy. And the “we” in question is me, Andre Grant, and our Sr. Features Writer Ural Garrett. Collectively we serve as HipHopDX’s Features Staff. Aside from tackling stray topics, we may invite artists and other personalities in Hip Hop to join the conversation. Without further delay, here’s this week’s “Stray Shots.”

Joey Badass_01-23-2015

Joey Bada$$

Ural: For anyone to release their debut album in this day and age with as much hype as Joey Bada$$ is rare. To pull off 50K during the first week without a major label backing him is damn near inspiring. Many emcees from New York claim to be that one special person to bring Hip Hop’s Mecca back to the forefront of the culture. In Mr. Bada$$’s case, he actually has the best chance of bringing the city back.

Andre: Joey Bada$$ came out and said the other day, much to Troy Ave’s dismay, that he was now the number one independent artist in Hip Hop. If he’s not correct, he’s close. Tech still and will alway have his rabid fanbase and torrid tour schedule. And, well, Strange Music is a marvel of independent industry success, but Joey’s 50K plus first week sales with no huge distribution deal means there may be at least a fraction of truth in what he said.


Tech N9ne

Andre: Tecca Nina has built a Midwestern-based empire based on hokey principles like treating your fans right and rapping his ass off. Not only that, but he (through Strange Music) employs some of the most out-there and talented emcees in the rap omniverse. Special Effects found itself again on the Billboard charts and being a “Cash King” means even Kevin Gates wants Tech N9ne money.

Ural: Tech N9ne is more than an emcee who managed to help slowly build a Kansas City-based indie label into one of the biggest powerhouses in Hip Hop. Mr. Yates is a fucking brand. There isn’t an indie rapper with as much mainstream clout as the Strange Music Captain. Hip Hop’s greatest from Lil Wayne to Eminem has respected the Forbes Hip Hop Kings List, and he does all this while overseeing the careers of other artists on the label as well.


Brother Ali

Ural: While most emcees speaking on social issues and revolutions normally leave things on wax, Rhymesayers’ own Brother Ali has really been down for the cause. So much he was even arrested during an Occupy protest in 2012. Thankfully, considering the money he’s grossed (rumored to be in the millions), getting bail wasn’t that difficult. Ali proves that being critical of one’s own government, and having a large following while making tons of dough is possible.

Andre: Gobi Rahimi suggested that Brother Ali could have been a Tupac contemporary and that Pac would have respected him and his music. Of course, he would have. There’s hardly an emcee in the game with more to offer than Brother Ali, and it just so happens that he happens to be independent down to the socks.


Nipsey Hussle

Andre: First, the $100 dollar mixtape, and then the $1,000 dollar mixtape. I can’t even imagine what’s next for LA’s own, Nipsey Hussle. The man understands what makes something important better than multi-billion dollar brands out here. But it’s not all gimmicks. Crenshaw was great: a deft mix of local-specific emceeing and fly sounds. Then, Mailbox Money doubled down on the brand. Nipsey has managed to turn his local cult following into an entire economy. Now that’s what being independent is all about.

Ural: Nipsey Hussle defied expectations within the mixtape game when he released his eighth mixtape Crenshaw in 2013. Not only was it freely available but, the Los Angeles-native made 1,000 special edition copies that included an autograph, concert tickets and other dope incentives for $100. Hell, Jay Z respected the hustle enough to purchase 100 himself. For his follow-up Mailbox Money this year, he sold special editions of the mixtape for an additional $900. For Hussle, this rap shit isn’t a game.



Ural: Rapsody’s rise within Hip Hop has been nothing short of amazing. Since her breakout mixtape Thank H.E.R. Now, Ms. Evans has become Jamla’s flagship artist and highly dynamic emcee regardless of gender. Her profile has grown significantly after her breathtaking verse on “Complexion” from Kendrick Lamar’s sophomore album To Pimp A Butterfly. As the world waits for a follow-up to her full-length debut Ideal Of Beautiful, she’s continued setting new standards for women in Hip Hop.

Andre: After her turn on TPAB, Rapsody became a hot commodity. And, suddenly, the North Carolina native was thrust into the spotlight. The New York Times and Complex came calling, and in interview after interview she sounded even more grounded and ready-to-pounce than ever. Perhaps no one deserves it more than our most underrated emcee two straight years in a row. Then there’s her skill with the pen, which is undeniable to anyone who has given the emcee an honest listen.


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