As a string of high-profile hip-hop artists near the end of their record contracts, a question looming over their pending free agency isn't which major label they'll sign with but whether they should sign with a major at all.

One prominent rap artist has already jumped ship: Jay-Z signed a long-term recording, publishing and management deal earlier this year with Live Nation. A Def Jam spokeswoman says Jay-Z has one album left on his contract with the label, but Def Jam head Shakir Stewart recently told Billboard "we're still working it out."

While few rappers can match the pull and marketability of the former Def Jam president, big names like 50 Cent, LL Cool J and OutKast will soon be on the market as well. Although they may ultimately re-sign with major labels, their camps have indicated that they are at least contemplating the possibility of a future without a major-label deal.

Click here to read more about rap duo Outkast’s future album release plans, the results of hip-hop artists who’ve already gone indie, and existing joint-venture deals.

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