Sometimes, the rap industry feels like a game of speculation, and never more so than during the South by Southwest music festival.

Although coverage of label signings often seems to focus on artists who strike it big on a viral level—a million for Kreayshawn, two for Trinidad James, three for A$AP Rocky—those cases are often outliers, lucky shots in the dark. Being a talented artist doesn't guarantee anything; it's hustle and an engaged, invested group of loyal listeners that usually drive an artist's longterm success, whether that artist elects to take major label investment, or prefers to run independently.

Two of hip-hop's biggest current hitmakers are Future and producer Mike Will Made It. Both came up through a slow-and-steady grind, building a multitude of hits the old-fashioned way, and that's also how the artists we're highlighting here are approaching their respective ascents.

There are probably some rising rappers who you think should make this list that are noticeably absent. Some we suspect may already have deals. Others...well, maybe they're just not that great. Mark our words, these are the MCs who the labels are chasing: 15 Unsigned Rappers Who Should Get a Deal After SXSW.

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