Saturday, December 14, 2013
10 stars of the indie rap game you should know about
Two of them made the Forbes 2013 Cash Kings list.
Recently Forbes magazine released the 2013 Cash Kings. This is an opportunity for us all to see which rappers are really making money and which ones are just running their mouths. I hate to say it like that, but you’ve heard the radio. Rapper talk, they say they have so much money and brag about all the cars they have, the trips they take, and so on and so on.
Most of the names are expected on the Forbes list, but there were two names that really stood out to me this year, Tech N9ne and Mac Miller. Now these are independent rappers; in other words no major label deals, no industry push, very little or no radio play, no love on TV. You get the picture. These are artists who push their music solely on the shoulders of their very own hand-picked team.
Unless you’ve been sleeping for the last decade, you should know Tech N9ne has been raking in the dough. This past year he earned $7.5 million and Mac Miller earned $6 million. For me, their numbers are even more impressive than Diddy’s $50 million or Dr. Dre’s $40 million. This money was made from an empire that was created by the artist outside of that mainstream circle.
Maybe unrelated to the subject, but this makes me want to spread awareness and name drop. If you’re not paying attention, you might miss these guys. Here is my list of independent artists that have been not only making noise over the past decade, but doing better than most of the rappers in the limelight.
1. Tech N9ne — He reigns from Kansas City, where he is respected as a king, but to the rest of the world he may just be another rapper you’ve never heard of. Well, I would call you crazy. His longevity, numbers and fan base does the bragging for him. He consistently drops two projects a year and lives on the road doing an average of 200 live shows a year. He mixes hip-hop with rock 'n' roll, and blends it well. He has earned his spot on the Forbes list.
2. Insane Clown Posse — Creating their own lane, ICP has formed a cult-like fan base who call themselves Juggalos. This horrorcore group paints their faces and rocks stages all around the world, in front of fans who believe supporting ICP is a way of life. This group has been at it since the '90s and has truly paved the way for most of the successful indie rappers in the game today.
3. Atmosphere — What started in Minnesota as rapper Slug and producer Ant has now grown into a 10-piece band. For over a decade, Atmosphere has consistently released albums (from a small self owned indie label still in Minnesota) that chart on the billboard charts with no radio play. They relate to their fans with a storytelling form of hip-hop that appeals to the average working class citizen.
4. Mac Miller — He hasn’t been around for a decade -- in fact, it’s only been a few years on the scene for this guy. Through his association with Wiz Kalifah hit "Pop Up," with mix tape after mix tape, now he’s on the Forbes list.
5. MF Doom — This underground emcee was born in the U.K. and was once signed to Atmosphere’s Rhyme Sayers Label. He’s known for his mask and super villain persona. His style has a New York sound to it similar to Wu-Tang.
6. Black Milk — This Detroit emcee came on the scene in the early millennium and hasn’t looked back. Classic underground, album after album. No mainstream headlines, but deserves all of the respect. A truly supportive fan base and definitely someone who shouldn’t be missed by a hip-hop fan.
7. Z-Ro — As we move around the map, this Houston rapper came up under the Houston based Rap-A-Lot records. His singing street rap style has been imitated but never duplicated. He has a ridicules the amount of albums and mixtapes, including group (ABN) albums with another indie Houston rapper worth paying attention to, Trae Tha Truth.
8. Jedi Mind Tricks — This producer and emcee combo have been at it since the late '90s. They are very vocal about their Muslim beliefs and spread a lot of disrespect towards Christianity, but longevity in the indie game is what they have achieved. They have a crazy fan base.
9. Mac Dre — Rest In Peace to this Bay Area legend that takes the credit for creating the whole Thizz or hyphy movement. He was known as jokester that took nothing seriously. So many albums and mixtapes to his name that it’s almost impossible to count. He was killed in Kansas City after a show, and northern California loved him so much they almost started a street war that Kansas City was not equipped to participate in. KC Rapper Fat Tone claimed to have been responsible for killing him in a song, and he was found dead in the desert of Nevada shortly after. But that’s another story.
10. Brotha Lynch Hung — No way I can speak about longevity in the indie rap game without paying respect to this guy. He literally lives up to character on track as a serial killer/cannibal and never breaks character. It’s kind of scary cause you start to wonder if he’s serious. His lyrical skill is unmatched and he dropped his first EP in 1992. His last three albums were released on Tech N9ne’s Strange Music label. An interesting fact about Lynch: His debut album Season of Da Sickness was released in 1995 on an independent distributer. It is certified platinum by the RIAA. That’s right over a million copies in the early '90s for an indie rapper. I dare you to find a rapper who can say that. He's one of the forefathers of the horrorcore genre and still at it. If you ask me, talent-wise, he’s even better now then he was then.
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