I was talking to a relative recently about being independent versus being signed to a major label. I believe the conversation began when I mentioned that Lil Wayne had signed with Jay Z’s Roc Nation. Lil Wayne released a TIDAL only track “Glory” shortly after announcing that he had become a part owner in the music streaming company. The question was ‘why won’t Lil Wayne just go independent?’ We both agreed that he could still have success because he has been in the game long enough to brand himself and build a global fan base. I tried to give some round about answer about how the companies pay money to “promote” an artist so that more people are able to access their music gradually building their own fan base. I remember thinking something similar when Beyoncé dropped her self-titled album in December 2013. If an artist is as captivating as say a Beyoncé, Michael Jackson, or a Whitney Houston has the fan base why wouldn’t they go independent?
Look at what Tech N9ne has been doing for decades. He presses and distributes his own music and sells his own clothing and promotional materials. Talib Kweli has his own online store where you can purchase his music directly from him. Eliminating the middle-man, the label. The middle man who gets your money before you do and gives you the leftovers for something you created. I think in this time these three artists are the ones to follow. You can include Troy Ave, Macklemore, and other Atlanta acts in this group as well. If you go back in Hip Hop history Master P, Ludacris, and Cash Money were trailblazers in the independent game. Three 6 Mafia all in the beginning were independent or had nothing more than a distribution deal. For the young people who may be reading this blog and those who just don’t know. A distribution deal is just a contract negotiating terms in reference to getting the music to the actual store or to whichever streaming services are identified in the contract. When you have a straight up deal with a label (a label is not necessarily a distribution company) they pay for almost everything and make sure they get their money back, with interest, when the checks start to roll in. They may pay for studio time, tours, promotions, appearances, travel, and an array of other mundane things that you wouldn’t really buy if you were knowingly using your own money.
If Hip Hop artists went independent they would become job creators in their own right and we could get our culture back! If more label owners actually cared about the culture Hip Hop would not be what it is now and the economy would be ignited. Having us in executive positions allow us to hire family and friends reducing economic hardship thus increasing participation and completion of school or other educational programs. This will bring on more social and political activism. (Four Initiatives) We will be more educated and have more people becoming educated taking the jobs from the corrupt politicians and police all the while reversing government policies that have been put into place to keep the lower class as low as possible. I know some of you may be skeptical but trust me. Independent Hip Hop can help save us. It’s not like you have to have your music played on the radio with all the internet has to offer and videos don’t even air on television anymore. It’s all relegated to the internet.
Hip Hop is as oppressed as some of the people who live it. These artists are made to believe they need labels and distribution companies help push their records. This is what Dame Dash is talking about right here. They make them feel like without them they are worthless all the while taking money from you for something they didn’t put in any work to put together. The companies use them and throw them away overnight. All to sell our youth a dream that most of them will never achieve and it’s all for money. So if the radio and television are already working together they manipulate these artist knowing that none of them want to go back to the life they had before.