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Trinidad James Among Featured Artists in New Digital Series 'Independent'

Courtesy of Stage 13
Trinidad James

So what is it truly like to be an independent hip-hop artist in search of the proverbial American Dream? Four rappers—Trinidad James, Futuristic, Reverie and Sean Brown—relate their individual entrepreneurial journeys in the digital docu-series Independent.

In the exclusive clip below, James shares his “Monopoly money” perspective on record deals:

Comprised of 12 10-minute episodes, Independent is produced by Stage 13, an original digital content brand that is part of the Warner Bros. Digital Networks. The series itself was created by filmmaker and executive producer Adrian Guillemet. Inspiration hit a few years ago during an off-camera conversation with an independent rapper while Guillemet was filming a show with MTV. Deciding to go independent after buying himself out of two record deals, the rapper noted that he could sell 700,000 copies of a project and make $10 each versus selling 2 million copies as a major label artist and still not recoup his production budget.

“The entrepreneurial spirit has always been at the heart of hip-hop,” Guillemet tells Billboard about his own decision to create Independent. “And there’s a trend happening now with major labels getting back into the independent business a little more. And that raises another question: Is it still viable to remain independent?”

To explore those scenarios as well as the collision of art and commerce, Guillemet chose the aforementioned artists in light of the various career levels they represent. As he explains:

Trinidad James: “He had this astronomical rise off one song and received a $2 million deal with Def Jam. Then 14 months later he’s dropped. Now he’s back to being independent after being inside of the machine.”

Futuristic: “A lot of independent rappers go the mixtape route: put out music, get the buzz and social numbers up and book tours. Futuristic has never given away free mixtapes; he’s always sold his music. This is a talented kid who spent his own money to build his brand from the ground up.”

Reverie: “I wanted to show a dynamic young female who is flourishing in a male-dominated genre. There’s also an international flair with Reverie. She’s not very known stateside, but she just got back from her ninth or tenth European tour and has developed her own fashion line.”

Sean Brown: “Inspired by Kanye West, Sean took a risk five years ago and quit his job to make it in music. Then things changed a couple of years ago when he had a son. It’s now or never for him; it’s real life now with a child to feed.”

Independent is Stage 13’s first music series in its initial slate of unscripted shows. “What we’re looking for in this space is to find great characters and look at them from the inside out,” says Shari Scorca, Stage 13’s head of unscripted. “This isn’t about a reporter going in to tell the story. That’s already being done.”

Two episodes of Independent will premiere at SeriesFest, the annual international content and television festival, in Denver (June 27-July 2). A trailer is available for viewing on Stage13.com with a release date for the series to be announced soon.