Top Dawg Entertainment

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Top Dawg Entertainment
Top Dawg Entertainment.png
Founded2004 (2004)
FounderAnthony Tiffith
Country of originUnited States
LocationLos Angeles, California

Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) is an American independent record label founded in 2004, by CEO Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith. Dave Free and Punch are both presidents of the TDE. There are currently nine artists signed to the label: The label's flagship artists, Black Hippy members Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q, as well as Isaiah Rashad, SZA, Lance Skiiiwalker, SiR, and most recently Zacari and Reason. The label also houses a production division that includes Digi+Phonics, THC, King Blue and Derek "MixedByAli" Ali.



In 1997, Anthony Tiffith began as a record producer, who had produced for rappers such as The Game and Juvenile, among others. In 2003, Tiffith found a then 15-year-old Kendrick Lamar, a Compton native, who at the time went by K-Dot and had just released his first mixtape, which gained recognition and earned the young rapper a buzz in his local area. Tiffith saw potential in Lamar, signing him onto the label from the strength of the rapper's debut mixtape.[1] It wasn't until 2005 that TDE started to gain success with another California-based rapper, Jay Rock. Following Rock's signing, TDE signed joint venture deals with Warner Bros. and later Asylum Records. However, following the merger, TDE began planning an exit strategy after the labels failed to handle Rock's debut Follow Me Home properly.[2]

In 2007, Carson-based rapper Ab-Soul was added to the Top Dawg roster.[3] On May 10, 2008 the label released a compilation mixtape titled Do It Nigga Squad, Volume 1, which features songs by members of the label's roster, with other appearances coming from fellow American rappers Schoolboy Q, Lil Wayne and[4] All songs on the mixtape were mixed by Top Dawg's resident engineer Derek "MixedByAli" Ali, much like a majority of their releases are.[4] In October 2008, Jay Rock released his commercial debut single "All My Life (In the Ghetto)," which was included as the last track on the aforementioned mixtape and features Lil Wayne and

In 2009, Los Angeles-based rapper Schoolboy Q signed with TDE after being affiliated with the label since 2006. In 2009, once they were all signed to the label, Schoolboy Q suggested that he, Lamar, Rock and Ab-Soul form a rap group. They all agreed and all four artists formed the hip hop group Black Hippy.[5][6]


In 2010, TDE issued Kendrick Lamar's fourth mixtape Overly Dedicated exclusively to digital retailers, such as iTunes. Four more projects followed route, Jay Rock's mixtape Black Friday (2010), Schoolboy Q's Setbacks (2011), Ab-Soul's Longterm Mentality (2011) and Kendrick Lamar's Section.80 (2011); the latter of which was critically acclaimed and peaked at number 113 on the US Billboard 200 chart. The first studio album released to stores as well as online retailers was Jay Rock's often delayed debut studio album Follow Me Home, released on July 26, 2011, with Tech N9ne's Strange Music. The album debuted at number 83 on the Billboard 200, selling 5,300 copies in its first week.

In March 2012, MTV reported that TDE closed a joint venture deal with Interscope Records and Aftermath Entertainment. Under the new deal, Kendrick Lamar's debut studio album, good kid, m.A.A.d city would be jointly released via Top Dawg, Interscope and Aftermath.[7] In August 2012, during "TDEFamAppreciationWeek", they released solo tracks from each of the Black Hippy members and a video of Lamar and Q acting out on the tour bus.[8] Kendrick Lamar was the first to release his major-label debut, with good kid, m.A.A.d city hitting stores on October 22, 2012. The album was highly acclaimed and went on to become certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Schoolboy Q subsequently began recording his major-label debut Oxymoron.


In June 2013, Top Dawg announced they were planning to sign two more artists, with the first being reported as Tennessee native, Isaiah Rashad.[9][10] On July 14, it was revealed Top Dawg had signed an up-and-coming female singer named SZA to the label.[11] In August 2013, during an interview with Vibe, CEO Anthony Tiffith spoke on comparisons to Death Row Records, another label based in Southern California, run by Comptonite Marion "Suge" Knight, that had released albums from Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Tupac Shakur and others during the 1990s.[12] Tiffith also said that he learned several lessons from his first major-label contract; a deal with Warner Bros. Records for Jay Rock, that lasted from 2006 until 2010.[12] Tennessee-based rapper Isaiah Rashad's signing to TDE was officially announced on September 20, 2013.[13]

In October 2013, at the BET Hip Hop Awards, Kendrick Lamar won five awards, including Album of the Year and Lyricist of the Year, the latter of which he also won the year before.[14] At the award ceremony, Schoolboy Q performed his debut album's lead single "Collard Greens", with Lamar following him, performing "Money Trees", alongside Jay Rock.[15] Lamar, Rock and Schoolboy Q were also featured in a cypher, along with Ab-Soul and newcomer Isaiah Rashad, which was presented by BET, in an annual effort to showcase a specific label's roster, with GOOD Music in 2010, Shady Records and MMG in 2011, as well as Grand Hustle and Ruff Ryders in 2012.[16] In an October 2013 interview with XXL, co-president Terrence "Punch" Henderson confirmed that the original reports of the record label being distributed by Interscope Records were incorrect. He said only Schoolboy Q and Kendrick Lamar ever had solo record deals with Interscope Records, while the label was currently looking for a distribution deal for the entire label.[17]

In November 2013, Kendrick Lamar was named GQ's "Rapper of the Year," and was featured on the cover of the magazine's "Men of the Year" issue.[18][19][20] Following the issue's release, TDE's CEO Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith, pulled Kendrick Lamar from performing at GQ's party that accompanies the issue, calling out writer Steve Marsh's profile, "Kendrick Lamar: Rapper of the Year," for its "racial overtones," such as comparisons to Suge Knight and Death Row Records.[21][22][23][24] GQ editor-in-chief Jim Nelson, responded saying: "Kendrick Lamar is one of the most talented new musicians to arrive on the scene in years," the EIC said in a statement that was posted to the magazine's website. "That's the reason we chose to celebrate him, wrote an incredibly positive article declaring him the next King of Rap, and gave him our highest honor: putting him on the cover of our Men of the Year issue. I'm not sure how you can spin that into a bad thing, and I encourage anyone interested to read the story and see for themselves."[25][26]

After not releasing an album the entire year, on December 21, 2013, CEO Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith revealed that he plans on the entire label's roster releasing solo albums in 2014, starting with Schoolboy Q's Oxymoron on February 25, 2014.[27] However, it was later confirmed that Isaiah Rashad would make his debut with Cilvia Demo on January 28, 2014.[28] Cilvia Demo was later released on January 28, 2014. The EP received widespread acclaim from music critics.

On March 26, 2014, R&B artist SZA released the single "Child's Play" featuring Chance The Rapper and produced by XXYYXX. The song is taken off of her third Extended Play Z which was released on April 8.[29] On June 24, 2014, Ab-Soul released his third studio album These Days.... The album received critical acclaim and saw a rise in commercial performance compared to his previous albums.


On March 15, 2015, TDE released Kendrick Lamar's fourth retail release, To Pimp a Butterfly. In its first week of release, To Pimp a Butterfly debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and sold 325,000 copies in the United States.[30] Later in the year, To Pimp a Butterfly received two nominations at the 58th Grammy Awards: Album of the Year and Best Rap Album; while the song "Alright" was nominated for Song of the Year, Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song, its visuals for Best Music Video, and "These Walls" received a nomination for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.[31] Previously, the lead single "i" won Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance at the 2015 ceremony.[31]

On September 11, 2015, the label released Jay Rock's second album, 90059. The album debuted at number 16 on the US Billboard 200, selling 18,713 equivalent album units copies in its first week.[32] On February 29, 2016, Top Dawg hinted at two new label signees, as well as scheduled releases for each of the label's artists' for 2016.[33] On March 4, 2016, Kendrick Lamar released untitled unmastered. in a surprise release via Twitter. On May 20, Top Dawg officially announced the signing of Lance Skiiiwalker, who had initially been featured on Jay Rock's 90059.

In May 2016, TDE CEO Anthony Tiffith confirmed the release of several of the Top Dawg members' albums.[34] On May 31, 2016, after turning in his album, Schoolboy Q announced the released date for July 8.[35] On July 1, 2016, TDE CEO Anthony Tiffith announced the label will be touring as a group after the four artists album releases in 2016.[36] The TDE tour featured Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, Isaiah Rashad, SZA, Lance Skiiiwalker and co-president/occasional rapper Punch.[36] Following the release of ScHoolboy Q's Blank Face LP on July 8, Ab-Soul revealed he had turned his album in for mixing.[37] Isaiah Rashad released his debut album The Sun's Tirade, on September 2, 2016. Lance Skiiiwalker released Introverted Intuition on October 18. Ab-Soul released Do What Thou Wilt. on December 9.

A sequel to SiR's 2016 HER EP, titled Her Too was released on February 10, 2017.[38] Kendrick Lamar released DAMN. on April 14, 2017.[39] On April 28, 2017, SZA announced she signed her first major-label recording contract with RCA Records.[40][41] On June 9, 2017 SZA released her debut album Ctrl. Ctrl was released and peaked at no.3 on the billboard 200. The album received critical acclaim, and some critics praising SZA's voice and music which spawned hits like Love Galore and The Weekend. In November 2017, SZA's Ctrl album received a Grammy nomination at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards for Best Urban Contemporary Album, losing to The Weeknd's album Starboy.

In 2018, the company formed a sports agency division, signing former LSU running back Derrius Guice as the first athlete.[42]

Current artists[edit]

Act Year
under the label
Kendrick Lamar 2005 7
Schoolboy Q 2009 4
Jay Rock 2004 4
Ab-Soul 2007 4
SZA 2013 2
Isaiah Rashad 2013 2
SiR 2017 2
Lance Skiiiwalker 2017 1
Reason 2018 1
Zacari 2018 -

In-house producers[edit]

Top Dawg Entertainment houses a production team named Digi+Phonics, composed of music producers Dave Free, Willie B, Tae Beast and Sounwave. They have composed the majority of the production on many of the TDE releases.[43]

King Blue, also known as Blue The Misfit, was once half of the musical duo Sore Losers and is also signed to Top Dawg as a producer, producing songs such as Kendrick Lamar's "P&P", Schoolboy Q's "To tha Beat (F’d Up)", Mac Miller's "Down Them".

Production team THC, a duo of producers, have produced several songs by members of Black Hippy, including Kendrick Lamar's "Cartoon & Cereal" and "m.A.A.d City", as well as Schoolboy Q's "Collard Greens", among several other tracks.[44][45][46]

  • Top Dawg
  • Digi+Phonics
    • Dave Free
    • Sounwave
    • Tae Beast
    • Willie B
  • King Blue
  • MixedByAli
  • THC


The discography of Top Dawg Entertainment consists of 17 studio albums, one compilation album, four extended plays (EPs) and 17 mixtapes. Overall the label has sold more than four million records in the US alone.


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