These Independent Rap Labels Are Keeping Hip-Hop’s Creative Freedom Alive

Hip-Hop Editor
10.04.17 5 Comments

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As the internet and technology have grown in influence and ubiquity, so have opportunities and avenues for young artists to share their music with the world. With Soundcloud keeping the lights on, at least for now, Spotify, Apple Music, and Youtube have made it possible to simply upload your latest hopeful hit for mass consumption, and sites like Bandcamp even allow artists to monetize their projects directly from a single online service it’s easier than ever to get into the music game.

However, being successful or profitable still takes a lot of hard work and infrastructure, and usually, more of both than most rookies have time or money to dedicate just starting out. This is where a record label comes in. Generally speaking, the label provides the bankroll and logistical support to record, produce, publish, package, and distribute your music so the artist can focus on simply writing, recording, or composing beats.

Unfortunately, much of that support comes with strings attached. We’ve all heard horror stories of unconscionable album delays. For instance, up-and-coming Oakland rap star Kamaiyah’s Don’t Ever Get It Twisted mixtape has been delayed for unknown reasons, leaving her to leak her own “Successful” video in frustration (the video has since been removed from Youtube). Many artists often lose creative control of their product, as I discussed with indie, LA-based, Chicago rapper Open Mike Eagle.

With so many hands in the pot and so much investment in recouping up-front expenses, many major labels exercise undue leverage over rappers who just want nothing more than to rap. The label often gets a say in what singles are released, the recording schedule, final production notes, and even the overall look of an artist, right down to their wardrobe. Many a rapper has expressed exasperation with the structure and some have even quit over it.

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