Top Dawg seems to be the independent label that's next up, with four rising rappers who all have their own niche in the rap market. The man who gave these four Black Hippy members a record deal, Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith, has remained relatively quiet while Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul and Jay Rock all make a name for themselves, and thus put Top Dawg Entertainment on the map.
Anthony Tiffith has finally spoken out in his first ever interview with VIBE. The music executive speaks on his label's growth, signing the four TDE spitters, ScHoolboy Q's upcoming Oxymoron project, being a West Coast label and more.
Check out excerpts from the interview below. Read the full interview here.
In your wildest dreams did you ever think TDE would get to this point?
Top Dawg: "Man, it’s crazy, when I [used to watch] Uncle Mike (Tiffith’s uncle is rap mogul pioneer Michael Concepcion), I was like Man, this nigga getting so much money, I want to try music. It was this producer named Demetrius Shipp [who] was going through some issues, so he hollered at me. Me and a few of my niggas rode down to get his money for some shit he produced. Me and him kind of partnered up where he was using my studio because it was just sitting there. He was using the studio but I was off doing what I was doing, hoping that he might strike gold and I could cross over. When I did decide at the end of ’04, early ’05 to really mess with the music, I had the dream of it being [this big]. This took me by storm, though. This nigga first record is platinum. I knew that Kendrick could be the biggest kid in the game. Honestly when I heard him at 16 [with] the knowledge that he had, I knew he would be big."
It’s amazing to see Kendrick remain so humble after all the success. What did you see in him initially?
"When he first came to the studio… I put him in the booth and put this double time beat on, trying to throw him off. He went in there and started going off! So I’m trying to play like I’m not paying attention. He notices I’m not moving and starts going crazy. So I look up and I’m like, “God damn. He’s a monster.” So the next day I had a contract for him [Laughs]. "
You and Jay Rock are both from Nickerson’s. Did you know him before he was rapping?
"I wasn’t really familiar with Jay Rock because it’s like a 15-year age difference. When I decided to really start messing with this music, [I began] looking for artists. One of the homies said, “You need to check out Jay Rock.” I heard his name because he was messing up. A lot of times I like to talk to the young homies: I been through all this bullshit you been through. Cut this shit now. I wind up chasing Jay Rock down in the hood. He seen me a couple times and tried to go the other way ‘cause he think I’m fixing to discipline him. Then one time I catch him on the porch getting his haircut and his eyes got so big like, He got me. I said, “Yo, you can rap, I need you at the studio tonight.” We went from there."
You have artists from different, sometimes rival, neighborhoods that didn’t know each other. Was there ever conflict?
"It was a little tension with Kendrick and Jay Rock early on because our hoods were going at each other. They didn’t know how to react. With me being the big homie [I would advise them]: “You guys can bridge the gap between the hood, because y’all can speak to the world now.” You can get some money and change all this gangbang shit."
What can we expect from Schoolboy Q’s major label debut, OxyMoron?
"OxyMoron is about to be a real problem. Q sits back and watches what Kendrick does…so he’s already got his game plan. For a minute, I was on his head like, You need to do this, do that, but I’ve been riding to it lately and that shit is sick. The fans are gonna get an album they can ride straight through. It’s gonna be just like GKMC or better.”
TDE is the first West Coast label in a long time to produce quality music and success similar to Death Row’s. What do you feel are the similarities and differences between the two?
"I respect Suge for what he’s done in music. He had the coast booming. They had a star roster; I think I have a star roster. Shit was a lot wilder back then and I think shit got a little out of control in certain situations. I try to stay calm; I try not to have the big entourage because sometimes when people see so many dudes moving they want to challenge you. We got a lot of similarities, but we don’t club like they clubbed ‘cause you always got someone that want to come and try some shit. Then you have to put a demo down on somebody and then the following week you gotta put a demo down on his brother, then his cousin. It keeps going and brings negative attention. We had that attention early in the game with Jay Rock—everybody thought [we was] gangbanging. We couldn’t get no shows; everybody was scared for us to show up at events. We learned from that too."
As the new exec on the block, do you ever get advice from the older guard?
"I like when people call and give me advice, but I still like to go my route. Baby called me and paid me some respect; I done talked with Diddy; me and Fif [50 Cent] have two- and three-hour conversations—he a real dude. He knows everything that’s going on."