Where TDE Ranks Among Hip-Hop’s Greatest Record Labels

Kendrick Lamar made a rare and significant announcement in the last week: his upcoming album would be his last with Top Dawg Entertainment. For more than a decade, Kendrick has been TDE’s flagship artist. He is even a part-owner in the record label responsible for taking SZA, ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, and others into the mainstream. Even with TDE’s namesake founder, Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, responding to the news with positivity that matched Kendrick, the move inevitably marks the end of an incredible era for Hip-Hop.

On episode #59 of What’s The Headline, the Ambrosia For Heads team celebrates TDE while analyzing Kendrick’s statement. The podcast, available in video and audio below (and wherever you stream podcasts), presents a timeline of Top Dawg Entertainment’s rise to success and its careful expansion. The conversation argues that TDE has more in common with Rawkus Records than its commonly-associated Death Row Records while looking at the hosts’ histories surrounding the label and its artists, including Kendrick Lamar.

Jay Rock Recalls Top Dawg Discovering Him When He Was Just A Boy In The Hood (Video)

The close of the discussion weighs in on where TDE ranks among record labels. Both hosts agree that Top Dawg Entertainment is the top label of the 2010s and provide some noteworthy receipts in a tight race at the top. Then, Top’s company is considered among others through the lens of all-time. Earlier in the podcast, Reggie refers to a late 2011 AFH post series ranking the 20 best Rap labels of all time. This list was made during the same 2011 where TDE and Kendrick Lamar made a breakthrough impact in the music industry. The discussion places TDE in some legendary company, including Rawkus (#20), Loud (#19), Select (#18), Fresh/Sleeping Bag (#17), Rap-A-Lot (#16), Ruffhouse (#15), Uptown (#14), Cold Chillin’ (#13), No Limit (#12), Jive (#11), Aftermath (#10), Roc-A-Fella (#9), Cash Money (#8), Ruthless (#7), Priority (#6), Tommy Boy (#5), Sugar Hill (#4), Bad Boy (#3), Death Row (#2), and Def Jam (#1).

A lot can change in a decade, and that is clear by TDE’s rise through these ranks. Where do you place them among the giants?

The Rumors Were Right. Kendrick Lamar DID Release 2 New Albums.

The time codes of What’s The Headline‘s episode #59 are as follows:

0:00 Intro
2:08 Kendrick Lamar announces he is leaving Top Dawg Entertainment
5:20 TDE is more like Rawkus than Death Row
8:50 What is the meaning of Kendrick Lamar’s oklama.com
16:28 A timeline of TDE’s rise to become the best record label of the 2010s
17:50 Jay Rock has the first ever TDE release in 2006
18:20 Jake recalls being one of the first people to ever interview Jay Rock
26:00 Kendrick Lamar releases his Training Day mixtape in 2007 on Top Dawg Entertainment
28:50 Ab-Soul drops his first TDE mixtape in 2009
30:30 Enter ScHoolboy Q and Black Hippy is complete
31:35 Kendrick Lamar releases The Kendrick Lamar EP in 2009 and finds his identity as an artist
38:33 TDE shares the same secret formula as Bad Boy, Death Row, Cash Money, No Limit and Def Jam
44:00 Jay Rock becomes a XXL Freshman with J. Cole, Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean, Freddie Gibbs, Nipsey Hussle and more
45:50 The rise of TDE coincides with the golden era of blogs—NahRight, 2DopeBoyz, Rap Radar, OnSmash, and more
50:38 TDE makes the transition from mixtapes to albums in 2011 and goes to a different level
53:00 Jay Rock’s “Hood Gone Love It” ushers in a new era for Top Dawg Entertainment in 2011
56:20 Kendrick Lamar releases Section.80 and nothing was the same
1:00:30 Reggie meets Kendrick and Dave Free for the first time and becomes a TDE advocate
1:03:00 Jake is also championing TDE in his position
1:05:50 AFH does its first video interview of Kendrick Lamar
1:07:34 ScHoolboy Q releases Habits & Contradictions in 2012, which many consider his best album
1:09:50 AFH interviews Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock, and Ab-Soul in March of 2012
1:12:00 Ab-Soul releases Control System, his best album, in May 2012
1:16:15 TDE goes on national tour with BET’s Music Matters
1:18:40 Kendrick Lamar is named Lyricist of the Year at the 2012 BET Hip Hop Awards
1:18:50 Inside the listening party for Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city
1:19:50 Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city is released and becomes an instant classic
1:23:58 March of 2013 Kendrick Lamar has become FAMOUS
1:26:50 Kendrick Lamar’s “Control” verse turns the Hip-Hop world upside down and alienates him from Drake and Big Sean 1:32:10 TDE has arguably the greatest BET Hip Hop Awards Cypher of all-time in October 2013
1:37:00 Isaiah Rashad releases his TDE debut and SZA proves they are more than just a Rap label
1:37:38 Kendrick Lamar is robbed of the Best Rap Album Grammy for good kid, m.A.A.d. city, at the 2014 Grammy Awards 1:40:00 ScHoolboy Q releases his Oxymoron album showing TDE has multiple bona fide superstars
1:42:45 Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly sets a new standard for Rap albums
1:49:00 The GOAT conversation begins around Kendrick Lamar
1:54:40 ScHoolboy Q releases The Blank Face LP, further solidifying his status
1:58:40 Kendrick Lamar releases DAMN, one of the greatest concept albums of all-time
2:01:20 AFH becomes the first publication to break the story that DAMN is meant to be played forward and backwards, resulting in 2 albums
2:08:28 SZA releases her Ctrl album and becomes an icon 2:08:50
Kendrick Lamar and Top Dawg are on the cover of Billboard and reveal Kendrick owns part of TDE
2:10:20 Kendrick and Top Dawg make Marvel history as Executive Producers of the Black Panther soundtrack
2:12:25 Jay Rock has the biggest album of his career with Redemption
2:13:25 Reason becomes the next budding TDE superstar
2:15:45 News breaks that Top Dawg Entertainment co-president Dave Free has left the company
2:16:50 Dave Free and Kendrick Lamar announce pgLang, a company supporting artistic expression, in March 2020
2:20:00 August 2021, Kendrick Lamar announces he is leaving TDE
2:20:30 Where TDE ranks among the all-time great record labels

Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul & ScHoolboy Q List Their Vices With No Shame (Video)

Ambrosia For Heads readers can catch regular discussions about the culture on our What’s The Headline podcast. Additionally, What’s The Headline has recent interviews with Blu and Mickey Factz, Kurupt, Evidence, Skyzoo, Pharoahe Monch, Prince Paul & Don Newkirk, Statik Selektah, Lyric Jones, The LOX, MC Eiht, Havoc, Duckwrth, photographer T. Eric Monroe, and Lord Finesse. All episodes of the show are available wherever you stream your pods.

#BonusBeat: Kendrick Lamar’s Where It All Began for Ambrosia For Heads: