January 29, 2023

For Americans, one date on the calendar that holds significance is July 4—the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the establishment of the United States as we know it. Every year, Americans of all creeds and colors celebrate this landmark moment in American history with various festivities. From barbeques to fireworks, many give thanks for the liberties we’re able to have due to the sacrifices and valor of those who came before us.

In Hip-Hop history, independence has been fought and strived for by many creatives throughout the years. Having agency and control over one’s career and art is a key component to reaching fulfillment as an artist and is integral to being able to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Yet, due to the nature of the draconian music industry and contractual agreements, that freedom has been difficult to attain. Many artists do not have the means or the will to break out of their restrictive relationships with their record labels, causing some of the most talented artists of all time to languish in purgatory. However, there have also been numerous occasions in which an artist or a group was able to weather the storm and obtain freedom from their label—a watershed moment and testament to how sweet creative empowerment can be.

As the country celebrates the spirit of independence, VIBE decided to commemorate the occasion by highlighting ten rap acts that have gained their own independence from record labels during key moments in their career.

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