As the power balance between major and indie labels continues to blur, Bay Area rapper Kafani shares his thoughts with SOHH on the highs and lows of being an independent artist.
Currently signed to Big Cat Records, Kafani said an artist’s grind will ultimately determine if they can make it independently.
“The independent game is pretty good, I mean, anything you do you have to work hard at it,” Kafani told SOHH. “On a major label, you have to work but not as hard. There’s a lot of money that the label is going to put up to get you out there. So when you’re independent, you have to grind much harder to do it. But the thing about it that I like [about] being on the independent side is that you have more freedom to do what you want to do. Everything you’re seeing is my creation and what I”m putting together. I want to be able to be independent and make music the way I want to do it. I was on E-1 Music for a minute and it was cool. It’s an indie label but still had us working off of a major scale so a lot of things that were going on with the project, I didn’t know about. So I like to be kind of hands on with my stuff. At the end of the day, I know what’s best for me.” (SOHH)
Over the winter, fellow Bay Area rapper E-40 said he favored indies over majors.
“You caught up in a deal and a lot of times they’ll water your a** down,” E-40 explained in an interview. “They gonna be chasing a single and water it down. They want to hear a single before they actually start investing their money in you. They’ll sign you but while you working on your album the A&R’s coming in there like ‘We got one!’ Now it could be good if you got a single that caters to the hood and it got crossover appeal, that’s the blessing. But that’s like one of them ones when you hit the lottery. That shit don’t happen all the time. A hit don’t just happen. A hit comes out of nowhere, like a real contractual hit. You can’t force that sh*t. It’s gotta come natural like an afro.” (Hip Hop DX)
Last year, Atlantic Records’ Lupe Fiasco stressed artists should consider going solo for dolo.
“Stay independent, if you can finance yourself, you put in that work ethic and do it on your own, I definitely think you should try that route,” Lupe explained in an interview. “[At least] before you go into the professional kind of realm. But each one has its pros and cons. Sometimes it comes down to finance. You can’t say that to a broke n*gga. Somebody flashing 50, 60 thousand dollars — that means a lot, especially these days…You gotta do what’s best for you but I definitely think that if you can muster it up and you got your focus and work ethic at least, you can pull something on your own.” (All Hip Hop)
Def Jam’s Fabolous previously offered advice for rap newcomers including what mistakes could be made while signed to a major label contract.
“Really, I guess just coming in with not a lot of knowledge of what it takes to put out an album [is a mistake],” Fab explained in an interview. “Knowing the business relationship between you and your record label, a lot of people think it’s just going into the studio, being in the studio all night smoking and drinking and having your friends in there and then when the money don’t come back like it’s supposed to or the record labels taking every coin away from your album. Then they wanna look back and see what’s going on or flip out like, ‘Yo where’s my bread at?’ and it was there, but you ain’t do your business right. So I think everybody that comes in, you should talk with certain people or educate yourself to it by looking it up and checking out your business.” (Smack Tube)
Check out some recent Kafani footage below: