Can’t Hold Us: Independent Rapper Success Stories

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  • Macklemore FB4
    Earlier this week, Seattle reppers (and homies of <em>XXL</em>) Macklemore and Ryan Lewis made Billboard history by having their second-ever single&mdash;the riotous "Can't Hold Us"&mdash;hit No. 1 on the Hot 100, replacing their stronghold atop the charts with previous single "Thrift Shop." While Mack's been in the game for a while, the duo's debut was released late last year, and it's been truly incredible to watch their rapid growth and ascent to the top. And remember: They did this without a major label. If there's ever been a discussion that major labels aren't necessary to an artist's success in a modern market, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are that argument's thesis statement. But, they're not the first independent artists to find impressive success without major-label backing, so here we've compiled a list of other hip-hop acts who were able to achieve great things (in terms of sales, placements and performances) without a major.
  • mac_miller_50
    Mac Miller - "I'll Be There" <i>Best Day Ever</i> (2011)
    "I just hope she know I love her, the world's best mother/Yeah it ain't fair, so I'ma take care of her and her gray hair/When I get rich, I'll have her living how she should be/No stress, no worries."
  • Childish_Gambino_Lead
    <h2>Childish Gambino - "Bonfire"</h2>
    "I made the beat retarded, so I'm calling it a slow jam."
  • kid_ink_2
    <h2>Kid Ink</h2>
    The 2012 <em>XXL</em> Freshman has driven the web wild over the past few years, releasing singles to YouTube, all of which have garnered millions of views. His first proper studio album, <em>Up & Away,</em> was released via Alumni Music Group and peaked at No. 20 on the Billboard 200. He's since signed to RCA Records.
  • Lil B
    Definition: Mostly known as style, unique part of what makes you different than the other players in a cool way
  • Hoodie Allen_Featured Image_Feature
    Hoodie Allen - "No Interruption"
    "They told me make my money frontin' on that weed style / Tell 'em I be too old for it / And I gave my brother my ID / She independent, bet these bitches never find me."
  • Tech N9ne*
  • 9. Atmosphere
    The Minnesota duo of Slug and Ant is a not only a perfect musical team, they've also paved the way for a lot of independent artists in their on-their-own-terms success. Their most commercially successful record came in 2008 with <em>When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold,</em> which peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 charts.
  • Dogg_Pound
    <h2>The Dogg Pound</h2>
    West Coast heroes Daz Dillinger and Kurupt formed The Dogg Pound in 1992. Their debut album <em>Dogg Food</em> hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and went on to go Double Platinum.
  • El-P_1
    <h2>El-P - "The Full Retard"</h2>
    "I am Sam, I am known to go H.A.M., the full retard / Playing taps on a keytar, in the Benz or the Beamer."
  • 14. Dom Kennedy
    <h2>Dom Kennedy</h2>
    The West Coast local legend's fame has slowly but surely grown since his 2008 debut, and he's amassed something of a cult following in his hometown of LA. His <em>From the Westside with Love</em> skyrocketed his notoriety, and its followup <em>From the Westside With Love II</em> peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Rap Album charts.

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  • jon


  • Drew Emmerson

    Stop gassing these people up w/ your fantasy’s about winning the music lotto. Just because you don’t know, or care to investigate the background, doesn’t make your fairly-tale article true. The truth is that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis hired a company to help them
    get their music into stores. That company, Alternative Distribution
    Alliance, is an arm of Warner Music Group, one of the most major of the
    major labels. The growth was not organic – it was not free – it was bought and paid for in the identical way that ‘major label artists’ do. The work was done by the exact same people who place and promote platinum selling artists. Hardly ‘indy’. You clearly have no idea how the industry works. Calling El-P indy is laughable – literally.

    • Drew Emmerson little dick

      how is El-P not indy? Funcrusher was released independently then rerelaesed as Funcrusher Plus on an indy label, Rawkus. after Company Flow broke up, he started his own indy label, Def Jux haha he also coined the term “indy as fuck” know your facts before you start an argument. also, learn how to use “literally”

      • Drew Emmerson

        Learn how to use the term ‘indy’ – fuckjob. Also – if you knew how to either read or write – you’d understand my use of ‘literally’ was just fine, because in the context ‘laughable’ doesn’t mean to actually laugh – it’s a disparagement of you class EL-P as being ‘indy – dipshit – so to add ‘literally’ implies you are so fucking wrong, I do both. Anyhow – I’m wasting keystrokes on you – clearly.


    No Cormega?

  • LBJ