Top Dawg Entertainment‘s reign in the music world was not an overnight process but clearly, they own the market share of the game’s top talent on the Hip-Hop side with a rising stake in the R&B world today. TDE president Dave Free recently broke down how the label has thrived using time-tested methods of success, remaining true, and the value of Kendrick Lamar winning the Pulitzer Prize among other gems.
VIBE: At one time TDE was the bubbling underground crew, but what has it been like to really work your way up to being a powerhouse?
Dave Free: In the middle of the process, it looks the same, just the resources changed. We get more resources to do bigger and better things but it feels and smells and looks the same because it’s rooted off the same concept of repetition. So for us, we haven’t even gotten to the celebration point yet, because there’s still so much more to do. When I talk to friends and I talk to buddies, and even just hearing you say everything you’re saying right now, that’s when I get kind of pulled back into the perspective that “damn, it’s been a long time. We were just that. We were that underground crew that was trying to figure out how to get our feet in the game and now it’s the total opposite.” It’s really hard to say in a few words ‘cause it feels exactly like when we were in Carson just grinding in the studio. It feels exactly the same.
VIBE: How long do you think it took for you guys to really find your groove?
Dave Free: I would say about eight years ’til we figured out what not to do. The earlier stages when we were just really grinding through. It’s not about what you do right, it’s about what you’re doing wrong. We were doing a lot of right, but the wrong stuff sets you back. You don’t have to do everything perfectly, just don’t do anything that [sets you] back.