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Kendrick Lamar, Top Dawg talk TDE beginnings, ‘good kid’ recording process

In a revealing interview with Billboard, TDE CEO Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith and Kendrick Lamar talked about their TDE label and the creation of the Top Dawg movement.

Tiffith’s previous career as a “hustler” allowed him to finance his own independent record label and studio. He gathered a bunch of talented and artistic kids from his neighborhood in Compton, California and gave them a safe, creative space to work on their art.

The TDE head told Billboard about inspiring creativity in his artists and providing a safe haven from the street violence around them,

“Growing up in the era of the gangsta shit, a lot of my friends were getting killed, a lot of friends were in the pen, I got shot. When I got with the [TDE artists], it was up to me to show them something different — to lock them in my studio and make them build a bond as brothers, and struggle a little bit. I had the money to do whatever I wanted, but they weren’t going to appreciate shit if I just handed it off to them. So they were rushing to McDonald’s to look at what’s on the dollar menu, or going to get a River Boat special from Louisiana Fried Chicken. But I was showing them family life because my family lives in this house, too.”

Tiffith clearly has an ear and eye for talent, recruiting Lamar as a teenager to work out of his studio. Kendrick describes his hunger to succeed and how the circumstances around him made this secure environment all the more important,

“I was too hungry, man. The summer I came over there, everyone was getting murdered and shit. There was a real war with my section and, like, two neighborhoods down the block. Compton is small, so n—as be warring on corners. By the grace of God, we found the studio.”

That hunger to succeed has driven Kendrick to a workmanlike pursuit of perfection. He’s rarely satisfied with his final product and that led to him rerecording, scrapping songs, and making good kid, m.A.A.d city three or four times before it was actually ready for the masses to hear.

Kendrick told Billboard about the grueling recording process for his first studio album,

“We did good kid about three, four times before the world got to it. New songs, new everything. I wanted to tell that story, but I had to execute it. My whole thing is about execution. The songs can be great, the hooks can be great, but if it’s not executed well, then it’s not a great album.”

That’s the wild work ethic.

Shouts out to Top Dawg and Kendrick for keeping independent hip-hop alive!

Head over to Billboard to read the interview in its entirety.