Top Dawg Entertainment

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Top Dawg Entertainment
Top Dawg Ent. logo.webp
Founded2004;17 years ago (2004)
FounderAnthony Tiffith
Country of originUnited States
Location Carson, California, U.S.
Official website

Top Dawg Entertainment is an American independent record label founded in 2004, by CEO Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith. Punch is president of the label. There are currently eleven artists signed to the label: the label's flagship artists, Black Hippy members Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q, as well as Isaiah Rashad, SZA, Lance Skiiiwalker, Sir, Reason and Zacari. 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 some local buzz in his 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 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 March 2012, MTV reported that TDE closed a joint venture deal with Interscope Records and Aftermath Entertainment. Under the new deal, Kendrick Lamar's second 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]


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. [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]

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. [18]


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. [19] On May 20, Top Dawg officially announced the signing of Lance Skiiiwalker.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. [20] The TDE tour featured Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, Isaiah Rashad, SZA, Lance Skiiiwalker and co-president/occasional rapper Punch. [20] On January 19, 2017, TDE officially announced the signing of Inglewood, California singer SiR. [21] On April 28, 2017, SZA announced she signed her first major-label recording contract with RCA Records. [22] [23]

On February 9, 2018, the label released Black Panther: The Album , the soundtrack for the Marvel Studios superhero film Black Panther (2018), executively produced by Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith and Kendrick Lamar. [24] In 2018, TDE announced The Championship Tour featuring artists from the label, from May to June. [25] On August 8, the label announced the signing of Carson, California rapper Reason. [26] Later in the year, the company formed a sports agency division, signing former LSU running back Derrius Guice as the first athlete. [27] On January 25, 2019, TDE officially revealed that Zacari is signed to the label. [28]

In May 2018, it was announced that Kendrick Lamar was planning a departure from Spotify. [29] The announcement came after he heard the streaming platform intended to ban fellow rapper XXXTentacion from their editorial and algorithmic playlists for his acts of violence against women. [29] Lamar had been a fan of XXXTentacion's music. He tweeted a link to his debut album 17 accompanied by praise for the controversial rapper's "raw thoughts." [30] The removal of XXXTentacion as well as R. Kelly arrived in accordance to Spotify's new Hate Content & Hateful Conduct policy. [31] Conceived in light of the #MeToo movement, the hateful conduct policy sought to promote "openness, diversity, tolerance and respect" by removing content that promotes, advocates, or incites hatred and violence against an individual or group based on characteristics. [32] [33] The policy was especially poorly received by recording artists and executives working in hip-hop, the best-selling genre in the U.S. music industry, and the abrupt manner Spotify instituted it generated complaints. Terrence Punch, president of Top Dawg Entertainment responded on Twitter by remarking, "Whoa. Are they censoring the music? That’s dangerous." [32] According to The Guardian , a representative for Lamar personally contacted Daniel Ek to air his frustrations with the policy, claiming it was censorship. [29] [34] Bloomberg reported that the representative reached out to Spotify Chief Executive Officer Daniel Ek and head of artist relations Troy Carter, threatening to pull his music if the company kept the policy as it stood. Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith, CEO of Top Dawg Entertainment, confirmed he threatened to remove music from the service in an interview with Billboard . [35] [36] Tiffith stated, "I reached out to Troy over there, we had a conversation and I expressed how I felt about it, about censorship, how you can’t do artists that way. I don’t think it’s right for artists to be censored, especially in our culture. [35] In response to the criticism, Spotify reversed their policy and reinstated XXXTentacion’s music back onto playlists after other artists followed suit in threatening to pull their musical works. [34]

In 2019, former co-president Dave Free announced he is leaving Top Dawg Entertainment saying "None of the tactics we used back in the day to break Kendrick, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock or Schoolboy would work now. It’s a whole new game. Blogs were very influential back then and I’d have to build a lot of relationships with blogs and now it’s just more about streaming. You have to have the relationships with the streaming sites and it can’t just be a fake relationship." [37] Dave Free met Kendrick Lamar when the two were in high school as they later co-founded the service company pgLang in 2020. [38]

Other ventures

In 2014, TDE started the inaugural Christmas concert and toy drive in Watts, Los Angeles, including performances by TDE's roster of artists as well as donations to families in need. [39] The fundraising event has been an annual concert for the holidays, and had guest appearances from Rihanna, E-40, and Chris Brown. [40] [41]


Current artists

under the label
Jay Rock
(Top Dawg, Interscope)
Kendrick Lamar
(Top Dawg, Interscope)
Ab-Soul 20074
ScHoolboy Q
(Top Dawg, Interscope)
Black Hippy 2009
(Top Dawg, RCA)
Isaiah Rashad 20132
Lance Skiiiwalker
(Top Dawg, Rocketeer)
(Top Dawg, RCA)
(Top Dawg, Caroline)
Zacari 20191

In-house producers

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. [42]

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)” and Mac Miller's "Down Them".

The 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. [43] [44] [45]


The discography of Top Dawg Entertainment currently consists of 23 studio albums, two compilation albums, six extended plays (EPs) and 17 mixtapes. Overall the label has sold more than ten million records in the US alone.

Related Research Articles

Jay Rock American rapper from California

Johnny Reed McKinzie Jr., better known by his stage name Jay Rock, is an American rapper from Watts, California. Rock signed to the independent record label Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) in 2005. In 2007, alongside TDE, Rock secured a recording contract with Warner Bros. Records and later Asylum Records, but mergers fell through and Rock ended up leaving the label shortly after. He then signed with Tech N9ne's Strange Music, in a joint-venture record deal. Apart from his solo career, Rock is also known for being a member of the hip hop supergroup Black Hippy, alongside fellow West Coast rappers and TDE label-mates Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul. In 2019, Jay Rock received a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance for "King's Dead".

Kendrick Lamar American rapper, singer, songwriter, and record producer from California

Kendrick Lamar Duckworth is an American rapper, songwriter, and record producer. Since his mainstream debut in 2012 with Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, Lamar has been regarded as one of the most influential artists of his generation, as well as one of the greatest rappers and lyricists of all time. Aside from his solo career, he is also known as a member of the hip hop supergroup Black Hippy alongside his Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) label-mates Ab-Soul, Jay Rock, and Schoolboy Q.

Schoolboy Q German-American rapper from California

Quincy Matthew Hanley, better known by his stage name Schoolboy Q, is an American rapper and songwriter based in South Central Los Angeles, California. In 2009, Hanley signed to Carson-based independent record label Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) and in late 2011, secured a recording contract with major label Interscope Records. Hanley is also a member of the hip-hop supergroup Black Hippy, alongside label-mates and fellow California-based rappers Ab-Soul, Jay Rock, and Kendrick Lamar.

Black Hippy American hip hop supergroup from California

Black Hippy is an American hip hop supergroup from South Los Angeles, California, formed in 2008. The group is composed of West Coast rappers Ab-Soul, Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar and ScHoolboy Q. Black Hippy was constructed after all of its members had signed to Carson-based indie record label, Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE).

<i>S</i> (EP) 2013 EP by SZA

S is the second extended play (EP) by American singer SZA; it was self-released on April 10, 2013. After meeting members of independent label Top Dawg and releasing her debut EP See.SZA.Run (2012), SZA began working on S, beginning recording in May 2013. SZA worked with a variety of producers on the album, including Zodiac, Patrick Lukens, Brandun DeShay, WNDRBRD, Waren Vaughn and Felix Snow. S is characterized as an alt-R&B album with production that "twists and mutates."

Ab-Soul American hip hop recording artist from California

Herbert Anthony Stevens IV, better known by his stage name Ab-Soul, is an American rapper from Carson, California. In 2007, he signed to indie record label Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE), where he eventually formed West Coast hip hop group Black Hippy alongside West Coast rappers Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q. He is perhaps best known for his introspective lyrics and his four independent albums under TDE, Longterm Mentality, Control System, These Days..., and Do What Thou Wilt., which were all released to positive reviews and commercial success.

Digi+Phonics is an American hip hop production team, composed of California-based record producers Tae Beast, Sounwave, Dave Free and Willie B. They currently serve as the main in-house producers for Carson-based record label, Top Dawg Entertainment. Digi+Phonics work significantly on projects from all the members of hip hop supergroup Black Hippy, who are also signed to Top Dawg and is composed of rappers Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Schoolboy Q, and Ab-Soul. Their best known productions include "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe" by Kendrick Lamar, "There He Go" by Schoolboy Q, and "Terrorist Threats" by Ab-Soul. They frequently co-produce songs together and put the finishing touches on the projects released by Top Dawg Entertainment.

Sounwave American record producer and songwriter

Mark Anthony Spears, known professionally as Sounwave, is an American hip-hop record producer and songwriter from Compton, California, and an original member of the Californian hip-hop label Top Dawg Entertainment. Sounwave has worked on every Kendrick Lamar studio album since Lamar's 2009 self-titled EP, including the Grammy Award-winning albums Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, To Pimp a Butterfly, and the multi-Grammy and Pulitzer Prize–winning album Damn. He has received two Grammy Awards: Best Rap Song (2015) for "Alright", and Best Rap Album (2017) for Damn.

Isaiah Rashad American rapper

Isaiah Rashad McClain is an American rapper from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Rashad began taking rapping seriously in the tenth grade, where he and his friends would record on laptops. He spent the next few years recording at local recording studios. His first big break would be touring with rappers Juicy J, Joey Badass and Smoke DZA among others, on the 2012 Smoker's Club Tour. He is also a founding member of the Chattanooga hip hop collective The House along with fellow Chattanooga rappers YGTUT, Michael Da Vinci (MikeyD), Chris P, and Brian Brown.

<i>Cilvia Demo</i> 2014 studio album by Isaiah Rashad

Cilvia Demo is the debut LP by American rapper Isaiah Rashad. It was released on January 28, 2014, by Top Dawg Entertainment. The album features guest appearances from Jean Deaux and Michael Da Vinci, as well as his Top Dawg label-mates SZA, Schoolboy Q and Jay Rock. The albums production was handled by several record producers, namely Ross Vega, Mr. Carmack, Joseph L'Étranger, Black Metaphor, The Antydote, Farhot, Chris Calor, D. Sanders and a member of the Digi+Phonics Sounwave.

SZA American singer-songwriter from New Jersey

Solána Imani Rowe, known professionally as SZA, is an American singer and songwriter. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, she began making music in the early 2010s, releasing two extended plays—See.SZA.Run and S—before signing with the hip hop record label Top Dawg Entertainment, through which she released Z, her third EP and first retail release.

<i>Z</i> (EP) 2014 EP by SZA

Z is the third extended play (EP) by American singer and songwriter SZA. It was released on April 8, 2014, by Top Dawg Entertainment. After amassing two self-released mixtapes, See.SZA.Run and S, as well as meeting with members of Top Dawg Entertainment, she subsequently signed a recording contract with the indie label. The recording of the EP took place in Carson, California during the summer of 2013 with the help of her Top Dawg labelmate Isaiah Rashad, among others.

<i>These Days...</i> (album) 2014 studio album by Ab-Soul

These Days... is the third studio album by American rapper Ab-Soul. It was released on June 24, 2014, by Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE). The record serves as the follow-up to his critically acclaimed Control System (2012). The album features guest appearances from Black Hippy affiliates Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q and Jay Rock; as well as Rick Ross, Lupe Fiasco, Action Bronson and Mac Miller, whose in-house studio is where Ab-Soul recorded the majority of the record, among others.

<i>90059</i> 2015 studio album by Jay Rock

90059 is the second studio album by American rapper Jay Rock. It was released on September 11, 2015 on Apple Music and the iTunes Store; the physical editions were released on September 18, 2015 by Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE). The album features guest appearances from Rock's TDE label-mates Kendrick Lamar, Black Hippy, Isaiah Rashad, SZA, SiR and introduces Lance Skiiiwalker, Chicago singer-producer who in 2016 would be named as a new TDE signee as well as Busta Rhymes & Macy Gray.

"Vice City" is a song by American rapper Jay Rock, taken from his second studio album, 90059. The song, which was produced by Cardo, features guest appearances from Rock's fellow TDE label-mates Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul, credited as they are collectively known, Black Hippy. The song takes its name from the 2002 video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

<i>The Suns Tirade</i> 2016 studio album by Isaiah Rashad

The Sun's Tirade is the debut studio album by American rapper Isaiah Rashad. It was released on September 2, 2016, and is his second release with Top Dawg Entertainment, following 2014's acclaimed Cilvia Demo.

Sir Darryl Farris, known mononymously as Sir, is an American singer, songwriter and record producer from Inglewood, California. He released his debut album Seven Sundays in 2015 on the independent label Fresh Selects, and is currently signed to Top Dawg Entertainment, where he released his second and third studio albums, November and Chasing Summer.

Terrence Louis Henderson Jr., better known by his stage name Punch, is an American rapper, record producer and record executive from Carson, California. He is best known for being the president of the independent record label Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE). He has also executive produced several successful albums, including Kendrick Lamar's Section.80 (2011), Schoolboy Q's Habits & Contradictions (2012), Terrace Martin's 3ChordFold, (2013) and more.

Zacari Moses Pacaldo I, known mononymously as Zacari, is an American singer and songwriter. He is signed to Top Dawg Entertainment and released his EP Run Wild Run Free on March 15, 2019.

The Championship Tour

The Championship Tour is a co-headlining concert tour by the independent record label, Top Dawg Entertainment. The tour featured artists Kendrick Lamar, SZA, ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, Sir, and Lance Skiiiwalker. The tour began in Vancouver on May 4, 2018, and concluded in Burgettstown on June 16, 2018


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