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Why rapper and Netflix star Killer Mike turned down a life-changing record deal

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Here's why Killer Mike turned down a life-changing record deal

Many artists think landing a record deal with a major label is the key to success, but Grammy-winner Killer Mike felt early on in his career that there was value in betting on himself.

The rapper tells CNBC Make It that after leaving Columbia Records, he turned down a lucrative deal with Virgin Records in 2003, because he believed he could achieve more as an independent artist.

Killer Mike of Run The Jewels performs live on stage at Finsbury Park on June 30, 2018 in London, England.
Jim Dyson | Getty Images

The rapper explains that he had grown weary of corporate rules. "I got tired of being told corporately what to do and how to do it, and 'your name can't be Killer Mike' and 'you got to do this kind of single,'" he says. "I wanted to just be independent."

But while being independent may "sound sexy and romantic and awesome," he warns, it also means that "you got to pay your own bills, you got to pay your own promo, you got to pay for your own record to be played — and that puts you on your butt."

As a result, the Atlanta native says that money was tight for two years. He credits his work ethic and the support of his wife with helping him to recover. "What brought me out of that was making dope records," he says. "What brings you here is consistency and hard work and belief in yourself, even when you're on your butt, and even when you're on the bottom struggling."

Looking back, the independent rapper, who also has his own Netflix show, "Trigger Warning," says that "Honestly, had I signed the second record deal with Virgin Records, I wouldn't be standing here right now."

"I knew I could make more money on my own. I didn't know it would take me this long, but I knew I could."

Video by Beatriz Bajuelos Castillo and Helen Zhao

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