Top 5 Artists Who Self-Released and Blew Up


The internet is a beautiful thing, and over the past decade or so, it’s been a beautiful thing for up-and-coming music artists in particular. The web has opened a world of opportunity for allowing musical content to be heard without ever having to go through a record label, and if you’re savvy enough, it just might enable you to establish your own! While, on one hand, this means far more creative agency over image, press, and of course, the music itself, there are a few (or a lot) of drawbacks that come along with it. However, the artists featured below have managed to defy those obstacles and have gained significant success due to their hard work. They include…

Number Five: Tyler, the Creator. Tyler, founder of the hip-hop collective Odd Future, managed to build a loyal cult following by the age of eighteen after the release of his debut mixtape Bastard through his own label, Odd Future Records. Within three years of the release, he began gaining recognition from artists such as Kanye West and Mos Def, was able to collaborate with Pharrell (one of his biggest musical influences), and even managed to take home the award for Best New Artist at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards.

Number Four: FKA twigs. British electronic artist FKA twigs released her debut EP, EP1, on Bandcamp in December 2012, and subsequently posted a video for each track on her personal YouTube channel. The bold release gave way to her feature as The Guardian’s “New Band of the Day” and established critical success that led to her being signed by indie label Young Turks. It was through them that she then released EP2 in 2013, and most recently her debut album, LP1, in August 2014.

Number Three: Kilo Kish. Brooklyn based alternative hip hop artist Kilo Kish began making music after her roommates decided to set up a studio in their apartment. Through this partnership, she went on to collaborate with Odd Future subgroups The Internet and The Jet Age of Tomorrow. Kish then released the Homeschool EP in 2012, as well as the single “Watergun” via Soundcloud. In the past two years, she’s managed to successfully release EPs K+ in 2013, featuring collaborations with artists such as SBTRKT, Childish Gambino, and Star Slinger, and Across in July 2014. Since then, Kish has branched out into acting and modelling.

Number Two: SZA. This talented neo soul artist from St. Louis, Missouri began making music “by accident” with her friends for a little extra cash. In October 2012, she self-released her debut EP See.SZA.Run. In April 2013, she released her second EP, S, which was well received by critics, and led to her landing the opening act of Little Dragon’s four show tour later that year. Most recently, SZA has headlined at Brooklyn’s Afropunk Festival.

Number One: Macklemore. In 2000, the Seattle based rapper self-distributed his debut EP, Open Your Eyes, under his then stage name Professor Macklemore. Five years later, after deciding to drop the “Professor”, he released his debut album, The Language of My World. A year later, Macklemore met Ryan Lewis who began producing for him after serving as his promotional photographer for some time. Macklemore’s hard work has most certainly paid off, as he’s managed to snag four Grammy awards in 2014 alone.

The key to many of these artist’s success seems to lie in teamwork, as most of their careers have overlapped in some way. Through musical partnerships and collectives they’ve managed to pool their talents and help promote one another to gain the recognition they deserve. So who are some of your favorite self-starters? Leave a comment and let us know!