Top Dawg Entertainment Geared Up to Make 2014 Its Own

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Top Dawg Entertainment.  The three words alone get my pupils dilated, adrenaline pumping and head bopping.  But, maybe that’s because I know what Top Dawg Entertainment means for you, me, and all of modern hip hop. Let me fill you in.

So, TDE was founded in 2004 in an in-home studio by Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith.  After producing various beats, Mr. Tiffith signed a 16-year-old Compton native, K-Dot when he spotted a mix tape by the young rapper.  This promising K-Dot went on to rebrand himself as Kendrick Lamar, who has taken the music world by storm with his sophomore release good kid, m.A.A.d. city in 2013.

TDE Timeline (227x800)

Since its inception, the team has grown to a base of four mainstay rappers, Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul, all members of the crew called Black Hippy.  Each of the four rappers has achieved individual success, as well as success through appearances on one another’s songs.

Of note, Kendrick recently boiled the waters of the hip-hop sea with his verse on Big Sean’s “Control.”  In it, he quite explicitly declares himself the best rapper in the game.  “I’m the king of New York/King of the coast/One hand, I juggle them both”.  In the same verse, he calls out his peers individually.  “And that goes for Jermaine Cole, Big KRIT, Wale, Pusha T, Meek Millz, A$AP Rocky, Drake, Big Sean, Jay Electron', Tyler, Mac Miller/I got love for you all but I'm tryna murder you n*****.”

Schoolboy Q has risen to fame with two recent hits, “Collard Greens” and “Man of the Year.”  To me, what makes these releases all the more impressive is that Schoolboy didn’t wait to include them on an upcoming full length work.  Instead, he released the two as singles, hyping the masses for whatever he releases next.  Marketing mastermind?  Just doing his thing?  I’m not sure, but I do know Schoolboy Q is killing it.

Personal favorites from the Black Hippy artists include “Hol’ Up” by Kendrick Lamar, “Hood Gone Love It” by Jay Rock, “Man of the Year” by Schoolboy Q, and “Turn Me Up” by Ab-Soul.

In 2014, we will see Top Dawg Entertainment earn its budding reputation as a west coast powerhouse.  Not only has TDE signed two new rappers, but it also plans to release full-length albums from each of its six members.

TDE has recently signed both SZA and Isaiah Rashad.  SZA, a 23-year-old from New Jersey, is the first female rapper to join TDE.  She dropped her debut EP S last year, which earned high praise from critics.  On February 4th, TDE tweeted, “New music and album from beautiful @justsza soon.”

Next, Isaiah Rashad is a Tennessee rapper who recently released an EP Cilvia Demo, which SPIN magazine awarded an impressive rating of 8 out of 10.  While some worried that the southern native would hamper the authentic chemistry of the SoCal Black Hippy, the SPIN contributor seems confident that Isaiah Rashad “wasn't a perfunctory or cynically region-savvy addition.”

As for TDE’s flagship rappers, Schoolboy Q will release Oxymoron, Ab-Soul will release Black Lip Pastor, and Jay Rock and Kendrick Lamar will also release their works.  Right now, information regarding titles and dates on the latter two is scarce.  However, Kendrick has told iD magazine that we can expect some darker tracks: “I work best and do most of my album under gloomy weather, so you’ll hear a lot of dark tracks in there.”

There are some big moves being made in the hip-hop world in 2014.  Much of the hype surrounding this movement comes from California born Top Dawg Entertainment.  The label has promoted some truly talented artists who have collectively helped revive lyrical hip-hop.  We’re now seeing a move from drunken ramblings about money and drugs back to fierce poems about pressing issues in the world set to some serious beats.  It’s really an exciting time to follow rap.

So, if you’ve strayed away from the hip-hop scene in favor of EDM, that’s great.  There is no doubt cool electronic music in the works these days.  But, I urge you to check out some of the TDE crew and the work they will release in the coming months.  These are some true artists making music they believe in.  I think that’s something we can all get behind.