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The Big 10

The industry’s current climate may be crippling major labels, but it has somewhat leveled the playing field for independent artists.

Whether creating an internet buzz via relentless track leaks or going spin for spin and countdown for countdown with chart toppers, today’s crop of indie MCs is giving mainstream acts a run for their money, literally. On Independence Day, salutes the Big 10: the game’s most consistent, skilled, promising, entrepreneurial and talked about independent MCs. Without further ado, here’s the Big 10 in no particular order…allegedly.

Killer Mike: He’s a veteran. He’s often overlooked. But damn, he can spit (see,
“Killionaire.”) The former Purple Ribbon all-star is set to drop the
second set of his Pledge of Allegiance to the Grind mixtape series later this
month. Let’s not forget KM took home Best Mixtape Honors over Lil Wayne at last
year’s Ozone Awards.

Immortal Technique: This Harlem MC charges his rhymes with as much angst in each bar as he has anguish for the American government. His latest project, the Green Lantern-assisted The 3rd World, is another dose of sharp—and harsh—political commentary. The Evil Genius’ production may make it go down easy, but its still plenty filling.

Shawty Lo: It’s L-O! He’s not as underground as the rest of this list, but his story is at DIY as it gets. He funded the rise of D4L (Forgive him, if you can.), but instead of pocketing the funds, the Bankhead trapper flipped his money into his solo career releasing a series of mixtapes titled I’m Da Man, which spawned his breakout hit “Dey Know”—which is still burning throughout the summer—and the Shawty Lo dance. (Forgive him, if you can.)

Bun B: This Underground King’s reign has kept going despite the loss of his right-hand man Pimp C. The Port Arthur, Texas legend’s II Trill is a reminder of what was, what could have been, and what will be, in the aftermath of Chad Butler’s death. Man up, ‘cause Bun certainly has.

Jay Electronica: He’s either gonna be the new Q-Tip; a musical genius (who also produced for Nas, see Jay’s work on Nas’ Untitled)), the voice of hip-hop’s sensitive consciousness, and a penchant for having one of the baddest chicks on his arm (Hellloooo, Ms. Badu…). Or he’s gonna be the new Baatin; eccentric, moody, and fail to live up to his much-hyped talent.

Cool Kids: We don’t know what’s tighter, their jeans or their rhymes. But the Midwest duo of Mikey Rocks and Chuck Inglish sparked a rage for nostalgia with their kick-drum inspired beats and every man lyrics. They dropped a couple of EPs, and before their official debut, When Fish Ride Bicycles, arrives they’re hitting the ‘Net off with their recently released mixtape, That’s Stupid.

Curren$y: The former Young Money artist had a heater on his hands with “Where Da Cash At?” featuring Lil Wayne and Remy Ma. But the New Orleans native— and avid skate fan—didn’t let a little adversity set him back. He regrouped on his own and took to the Web, releasing the well-received mixtape Fear and Loathing in New Orleans. How’s that saying go? Kick, push…coast.

Mickey Factz: Downtown Manhattan (and eskay) favorite, Mickey Factz has been attacking the Internets with his weekly “The Leak,” a series of one-off tracks and diary-like entries detailing his inspiration for the songs. He’s like the new Crooked I. Except he’s not from California. Or wasn’t affiliated with Suge Knight before. But he has a better chance of actually releasing an album, so we’ll give him a break.

U-N-I: This pair of Inglewood rappers have helped to resurrect the Cali backpack rap scene (along with Pac Division who inked with Universal, so, goodbye indie days!) and ushered in a new era in L.A. amid all the gangsta boogie and clichés. Need proof? Check their remake of Wu-Tang’s classic cut “C.R.E.A.M.” titled “K.R.E.A.M.,” for Kicks Rule Everything Around Me. And they ain’t talking about Chucks.

Tanya Morgan: No, Tanya Morgan isn’t a female singer from the Soulquarians set. But they are Okayplayer hip-hop heads who got their start when they connected on the like-minded social site. Add a couple members here. Drop an EP, then an album, and now their newest project, the highly anticipated The Bridge, is garnering them more buzz than a U.S.soldier’s haircut.

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