Written By: Alex Kehn
Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith has developed one of the greatest record labels of all time, Top Dawg Entertainment, over the course of the past 20 years. This review will delve into the creation and development of arguably the greatest, yet one of the most overlooked record labels in music history.
Anthony Tiffith was a producer before creating Top Dawg Entertainment in 2004. Tiffith was a producer for The Game and Juvenile, which helped him get his start in the music industry as a high-end producer. In 2003, Anthony discovered a new musical talent based out of Compton, California known as K-Dot, who we all know now as Kendrick Lamar. Kendrick had just released his first mixtape, and Anthony truly saw something special in the budding artist. Although Kendrick Lamar was only 15 at the time, Anthony made the executive decision to sign him to his new-found record label Top Dawg Entertainment.
In 2005, after producing for Kendrick throughout the past two years, TDE was able to sign another California based artist, Jay Rock, and in 2007, TDE signed Carson, California's Ab-Soul to the roster. The final artist that was added to Top Dawg Entertainment prior to 2010 was Schoolboy Q, who had been affiliated with the company since 2006. Once signed, Schoolboy Q decided to present the idea of creating a hip-hop supergroup that includes all of the members of TDE. Anthony agreed that a hip-hop group was a good idea, and all 4 of the members of Top Dawg Entertainment combined together to make the group Black Hippy.
At the dawn of the new decade, Anthony had expressed that he wanted to sign more artists to his label, most notably Isaiah Rashad and SZA. It was at this point where comparisons between Top Dawg Entertainment and Death Row Records began. At the 2013 BET Hip Hop Awards Kendrick Lamar won 5 awards, which assisted in cementing the legacy of TDE as a truly phenomenal record label. Pushing further into the 2010s, Top Dawg Entertainment was able to sign more artists, including Lance Skiiiwalker, SiR, Reason, and Zacari, which leads us to today where TDE is a record label that has capitalized on young talent and has successfully become a prominent player in the music industry.
Top Dawg Entertainment has a storied history with producing and releasing iconic albums.
TDE is responsible for the production and publication of every Kendrick Lamar album, starting with Section .80. Any record label that is able to produce and publish a holy tritiny of albums that are as quality as Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City, To Pimp A Butterfly, and DAMN. deseves praise as one of the greatest record labels of all time. To Pimp A Butterfly is widely regarded as not only the best hip-hop album of the 2010s, but as the greatest rap album ever produced, and without Top Dawg Entertainment, that album, along with the rest of Kendrick's discography, would've never been created.
In 2017, TDE showed that hip-hop is not the only genre that they excelled in producing. SZA's R&B debut album Ctrl was released to critical acclaim. The strength of SZA's lyrics and vocals harmonize perfectly throughout her debut album and it is clear that TDE had a strong hold over the production of Ctrl, which assisted the album in sounding absolutely gorgeous.
2018 brought the entire TDE roster (at the time) together to create the soundtrack for Marvel's Black Panther. Every member of Top Dawg Entertainment pulls their own weight to create a strong soundtrack for an even better film. Marvel is very selective with who they choose to collaborate with, so the selection of TDE has truly shown that they are a profound record label that is capable of working successfully with anyone. The TDE roster are no stranger to collaborating with one another, seeing as there is numerous collaborative efforts between the TDE roster on every Top Dawg Entertainment produced album ranging from Jay Rock on Money Trees to Kendrick Lamar on Doves in the Wind.
In conclusion, it is clear that Top Dawg Entertainment is a promenant force in the music industry and will be for years to come. TDE's musical versatility has helped create a strong atmosphere as a record label and the comradery of the entire roster has assisted in Top Dawg Entertainment's continuing success. Top Dawg Entertainment is undisputedly one of the greatest record labels and production companies of all time.
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