The music label at the top

Unless you have been living under a rock shielding you from pop culture, the name Kendrick Lamar should ring a bell. However, the indie hip-hop label Lamar is signed to might not be as familiar, but holds just as much weight.

tdeTop Dawg Entertainment, commonly known as TDE, has been on a long journey and may have just caught the full attention of the mainstream media and audiences.

Over a decade ago, TDE was brainstormed throughout the rough streets of Carson, Calif. in the home of Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, the CEO of the label. House of Pain, the office and studio of TDE, was created after Tiffith bought recording equipment in hopes of an alternate route different than what the streets had to offer.

Tiffith began scoping out potential hip-hop artists in the area and over the next few years signed four initial artists who were also looking for a way out of the hood; Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, and Schoolboy Q. These hip-hop artists, each with their own distinctive personalities and sound, have carried a strong underground fan base up until recently.

Kendrick Lamar’s debut album “good kid m.A.A.d city”, released through TDE, Dr. Dre’s Aftermath, and Interscope Records, finally kicked in the door for the artists of TDE to move beyond their initial fan base. KendrickGKMCDeluxe

Released in Oct. 2012, GKMC not only caught the ears of those interested in hip-hop, but those who appreciate good works of art. GKMC is a story-telling, compelling album of the continuous battle between the hardships and one’s conscious, and is now regarded as a hip-hop classic.

It was the fame Lamar received after this album, which began to shed light on TDE and his label mates, although the four artists have released multiple projects prior to GKMC.  The four individual rappers come together to compose Black Hippy, the hip-hop collective commonly compared to the popular 90s hip-hop group NWA.

Regardless of the magazine covers Black Hippy has scored and the growing hype behind the group, they have very little music released. The handful of songs that feature Lamar, Rock, Soul, and Q are limited but full in quality and content. The rappers complement each other like brothers finishing each other’s thoughts.

Now that Lamar has found his fame in the mainstream hip-hop world, Schoolboy Q is next up to creating a larger fan base. Q released his highly anticipated “Oxymoron” on Feb. 25, which was released through TDE and Interscope Records. The album hit No. 1 on Billboard’s top 200, surpassing GKMC’s spot at No. 2 when it released in 2012.  “Oxymoron” sold over 139,000 copies in the first six days after the release date.Schoolboy-Q-oxymoron-cover-daughter

“Oxymoron” is the epitome of gangster hip-hop. In an article from XXL, Schoolboy Q compared it to Snoop Dogg’s notorious album “Doggystyle’s”, a sound that is almost unheard of for current, mainstream hip-hop.

“Oxymoron” is Q’s confession of life as a gang member and drug addict. It is a dark, riveting tale of deep confessions that are reinforced by the appearance of Schoolboy Q’s young daughter on the cover as well as heard on the album referencing his drug abuse.

While the lyrics of “Oxymoron” are raw, introspective, and full of emotion, many have been drawn in by the catchy beats and hooks displayed in the songs such as “Collard Greens” and “Man of the Year”.

Q’s lyrical content and style is no mirror to Lamar’s; TDE brings consistency of quality music with distinct differences in their artists.

TDE added two new artists to their roster in the fall of 2013. Isaiah Rashad of Chatanooga, Tenn. released the EP “Cilvia Demo” on Jan. 28, which reached the Billboard 200 at No. 40. SZA, a singer and songwriter based out New Jersey also joins TDE as the only female artist on the label. Both are promising new members to TDE, adding to the uniqueness of the label.

Pictured: From left to right, Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Isaiah Rashad, Jay Rock

TDE has announced April as a release date for a project from SZA and September  for Lamar’s next album, as well as releases from Ab-Soul, Jay Rock, and possibly Black Hippy sometime in 2014.

With a total of six new projects expected this year from its memorable and talented members, TDE has certainly made it in the music industry and cruising at the top.

– Jordyn Gunn, Online Editor


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