Independent Grindin’: 5 Independent Artists Achieving Mainstream Success

Jan 23 2014

While Tech N9ne is undeniably the most successful independent artist in the rap game, he is by no means the only one.

With the help of social media, dedication, and a great mind for business, there is a growing number of artists you might be hearing on the radio or seeing on TV that haven’t signed their souls over to the devil.

In honor of the recently announced Independent Grind 2014 Tour, and in the spirit of what Strange Music has always stood for, we thought we’d give a quick shout out to 5 artists that are achieving mainstream success on their own.


1. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

If you’ve turned on a radio or a TV at all in the last year, you know these guys.

Their debut album together has gone platinum and then some, and they’ve managed to snatch up seven Grammy nominations. What a lot of people don’t know is that they’re independent.

Yes, they do have the folks at ADA (Alternative Distribution Alliance) going to bat for them, getting their record played on radio stations across the country, but independent labels with major distribution is nothing new in hip hop, and regardless of how you feel about their music, these guys have retained meaningful content in an industry that seems to avoid it at all costs.

Mac Miller

2. Mac Miller

When we first heard “Donald Trump” years ago, we never would’ve guessed that Mac Miller would become the artist he is today.

His sound has grown into something original and adventurous, and the fan base he accumulated from his impeccable social media game and catchy tracks has grown to monstrous proportions.

How many independent artists do you see that have a show on MTV and sell over 100k albums their first week?

Mac may have the help of MTV to get his face out to people but when it comes to music, he keeps it independent, and for that he gets this author’s respect.

Nipsey Hussle

3. Nipsey Hussle

I mean, c’mon, the dude’s name is Hussle.

Nipsey has been making news lately with the release of his Crenshaw mixtape, which he was selling hard copies of for $100 a piece.

Jay Z famously purchased 100 copies, and the whole thing brought some refreshing and envelope-pushing ideas to the independent grind.

Hussle has also started his own record label and seemingly has no interest in doing things any other way but his. More power to you, Nipsey.

Danny Brown

4. Danny Brown

If you’re asking this guy, Danny is one of the most refreshing artists in hip hop right now.

Unique delivery aside, his ear for beats is incredible, his social media game is killer, and he’s not scared to venture outside the confines of hip hop to make good music.

He does all these things with the help of DJ A-Trak’s independent label Fool’s Gold, and while his debut album Old only sold 15k it’s first week, this is just the beginning of hip hop’s adoration for DB.


5. El-P

Producto is one of the biggest independent grinders we know.

El-P has probably produced some of your favorite tracks and you may not even know it. A veteran in the game, El has always kept things FTI.

Along with Amaechi Uzoigwe, El-P co-founded Definitive Jux records in 1999 (a good year for indie start-ups!), a label that has been home to underground favorites such as Aesop Rock, Cannibal Ox, and Del The Funky Homosapien.

El-P has always been an outspoken advocate of the independent hustle and has done more than his fair share for underground hip hop.

As the internet and inventive business models continue to loosen the stranglehold major labels have had on hip hop for decades, we can only hope that these 5 cases act as inspiration to the next person out there hoping to say “FTI” and carve their own path.

The art and those that appreciate it will thrive a lot longer with more people like these in the game.


Independent Grind Tour