The difference of being an independent artist and a signed artist is one taken more serious now by all hip-hop artists. As a signed artist, you have the force of a major label to promote and finance your projects, while as an independent artist you grind 100% more to get your name and products out to the public. Which is better? It really depends on the artist. If you are comfortable with having others dictate your career, it is best to get a deal with a major label. On the other hand, if you want to be your own boss, independent is the way to go. These are the two different paths many artists choose from in all regions of the country. Within those different regions the choice is made for a number of reasons, but the face of hip-hop in that region is one of the most important in making that decision.
Mainstream music has been the way to go for the majority of the artists coming out of the East Coast. It has not been an easy path, but it is a little smoother because of the large record labels in the New York area. In the New York area, the face of hip-hop is for most what you see on the videos and in the magazines. Although there are still a number of independent artists (in East Coast), the majority of them have some sort of deal with major labels or an even better deal with distribution companies. This is not the case for other independent artists across the country.
In the other regions: the Midwest, the South, and the West Coast, the picture is somewhat different. The life of an independent artist is continuing to grind to make your voice heard. That is what artists in the South have done for years and now they are gaining the attention that they have been working for in the past years. Artists in the South have recently joined with major labels, it has been a work in progress and now they are receiving national attention. Now, while the South has joined with major labels, the artists in the Midwest and on the West Coast continue to strive as independent artists also.
As independent artists, artists in the Midwest and the West Coast continue to make music that they want to make, that is one of the benefits of being independent, making your own decisions. Another benefit is the financial gain, as an independent artist you make more money, but you do not have the financial backing that artists with major labels have. The choice (of a major label) has become harder (to choose) in recent years as more artists see the benefits of remaining an independent artist.