It has been a long time coming for the Top Dawg Entertainment family. What started out as a hoop dream from a group of young, hungry men from L.A. is now one of the strongest forces in hip-hop. For the latest Billboard cover story, Kendrick Lamar and Anthony ‘Top Dawg’ Tiffith spoke to VIBE’s EIC Datwon Thomas for an intimate conversation about all that they have accomplished so far.
Kendrick, what was your goal recording the early mixtapes and The Kendrick Lamar EP?
Lamar: That shit was like boot camp. Getting in there and learning how to rap, put words together, freestyles and bars and shit. As time progresses, you develop. I remember coming to Top like, “Hey, I want to change to my real name [from K.Dot].”
What did he say?
Lamar: He’s like, “Man, that shit sounds hard.” He was with it. “Man, that shit sounds like a cologne.” [Laughs]
Tiffith: That was the first thing that came to mind.
Lamar: Like, that sounds like cologne — we can sell that shit! I’m thinking, “What’s the [musical] approach?” It’s got to be real, it’s got to be my story. It’s got to be some shit that not only I feel, but everybody else can feel. That was the initial idea: I’m going to give a small piece of my backstory before my debut album. Because good kid was already prepped.
You were already working on good kid, m.A.A.d city?
Lamar: Yeah, we did good kid about three, four times before the world got to it.
Meaning new songs?
Lamar: New songs, new everything. I wanted to tell that story, but I had to execute it. My whole thing is about execution. The songs can be great, the hooks can be great, but if it’s not executed well, then it’s not a great album.