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The rise of West Coast record label Top Dawg Entertainment is no doubt attributed to the success of its breakout artist, Kendrick Lamar. TDE’s CEO Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith has been a mysterious figure, but the shroud gets lifted in a recent interview where the executive talks signing K-Dot, Jay Rock‘s Warner Bros. deal and much more.

Top Dawg blessed VIBE with an exclusive interview for the publication’s “New Juice” series. The former street tough was inspired by the music business moves his OG uncle, Michael Concepcion, and hoped to follow in his footsteps.

From VIBE:

I [used to watch] Uncle Mike (Tiffith’s uncle is rap mogul pioneer Michael Concepcion), I was like Man, this n-gga getting so much money, I want to try music. When I did decide at the end of ’04, early ’05 to really mess with the music, I had the dream of it being [this big].

This took me by storm, though. This n-gga first record is platinum. I knew that Kendrick could be the biggest kid in the game. Honestly when I heard him at 16 [with] the knowledge that he had, I knew he would be big.

TDE was established in the late 1990s, and Jay Rock was the first of the label’s act to make a major label splash. However, the situation was rocky at best but Top Dawg saw the failure of the deal as a blessing.

“Jay Rock is pretty much our guinea pig,” shared Top Dawg. “When [TDE] first got signed to a label, I thought we was on our way. Going through all that bullsh-t taught us how to really win.”

Top Dawg’s ability to mesh the Black Hippy members, who all came from different rival gang-banging neighborhoods, also speaks to his ability as an executive. He says Lamar and Rock had a bit of static because of gang violence but saw their partnership as a way to heal the rift. Be sure to read the rest of this revealing interview.

VIBE‘s 20th anniversary issue is on stands now.

Photo: VIBE