The Los Angeles label heads give advice on making it with TDE.
Punch shared how TDE was developed after “Top brought us to the studio in Carson. It was inactive for a while,” he said, until they decided to take the bull by the horns. It wasn’t until 2004 that things began to change. “That’s when the roster came in that we have now. It started with Jay Rock first. Then Kendrick [Lamar] came, then Ab-Soul and ScHoolboy Q. That was the start right there.”
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“Once we set the tone, it just spread through everybody,” Punch added of how TDE began to gain traction in the industry. “Our whole motto is ‘Hustle Like You Broke.’ And we carry that with us. We still carry that with us ’til this day.” The hustle is certainly paying off, especially with the successes of artists like Kendrick, ScHoolboy Q, SZA, and SiR. Yet, TDE is a family, and if one person’s shine surpasses another, it doesn’t knock anyone off of their grind.
Jay Rock was the first artist on the label and although the Watts rapper is well-respected in the industry and among his peers, he’s watched as others who came after him received more recognition. “Artists on TDE, for me it’s like I was the first to bust the doors open,” Jay Rock said. “I’m the one who took all the hits. Knocked ’em down. I got knocked down…But my brothers always had my back. When I was healing up. Whatever the case may be, they took charge. It just comes back around full circle. It’s all about staying dedicated, staying working, and staying focused.”
Although TDE’s CEO and founder Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith wasn’t on the panel, his two sons, Big B and Moosa were there to represent. They watched their father build the company from the ground up, inspiring them to not only follow in his footsteps, but to become an intricate part of the TDE legacy as businessman and employees.
The label has kept their roster tight, unlike others who seem to ink deals with artists left and right. Punch admitted that he’s terribly picky when it comes to choosing new talent, so Snoop asked the panel, “What does it take to get signed?” Punch stated, “It’s different for everybody. Me personally, it’s originality. Something that’s different and stands out and I’m looking at work ethic after that. You can be great, but if you don’t work, that’s the worst thing in the world.” Others added that character, humility, and discipline were what they paid attention to, including how artists treat their parents and children. They also noted that patience is key, and used Jay Rock as an example of someone who can sit and watch other excel without knocking off his focus.
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Moosa also admitted that before he worked on the business side of the things, he first had aspirations of becoming an artist. “I actually rapped first,” he confessed. “I went into the studio one night and Top and Punch had my music playing in front of everyone. I quit my rap career from there and went into management.” He shared that there was something about the moment that made him insecure. “If you’re not ready to play your music in front of a room full of people, you’re not ready. Period.” Sometimes artists need to be honest with themselves and know when and if a career in the spotlight is for them.
So, what advice can a TDE artist share with the hopefuls that were standing in the audience with dreams of becoming the label’s next big talent? “I would definitely say know what you want,” advised SZA. “Be prepared to piss off people who you respect and that you care about upsetting, but make it worth it, because honestly, at the end of the day you have to look back at the decisions that you made and the mistakes that you made and whatever, you have to live with it. I feel like I did a lot of…scared. Scared to send emails, scared to send music, scared to…because it wasn’t right. I didn’t have a feature. I didn’t have this plug and whatever. Whatever the reason was, it never mattered. It just needed a willingness and a bravery which is really f*cking hard. So, be brave and be willing because ears are available.”
SZA later revealed, as we reported, that she’s working on new music with the legendary Stevie Wonder.
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