(Photo: Respect Magazine)
Prepare to witness the hottest crew in hip hop when Kendrick Lamar and ScHoolboy Q take the stage at the Staples Center on Saturday, June 29 for the second night of BET Experience. Both Kendrick and Q are members of Black Hippy, who are without a doubt running the rap game at the moment. Yes, that’s a bold statement. And yes, it’s 100% true. Here’s why.
Crews have been an essential part of hip hop since the earliest days of the culture. From Kool Herc’s Herculords to Marley Marl’s Juice Crew, hip hop was always about bringing together talented brothers and sisters and making a whole that was greater than the sum of its parts.
The '90s were a great time for crews like Atlanta’s Dungeon Family, Erick Sermon’s Def Squad, Suge Knight and Death Row, Puff Daddy and the Family, Biggie’s Junior M.A.F.I.A., Swizz Beatz and the Ruff Ryders clique as well as Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella, Fat Joe’s Terror Squad, Eminem’s D12 posse and Cam’Ron’s Harlem associates, The Diplomats.
More recently, Young Money, Maybach Music Group and G.O.O.D Music have risen to the forefront of the hip hop industry. All of them are anchored by a prominent star. While Young Money has Drake and Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne is very much in charge (unless you count Birdman). MMG has Wale and Meek Mill, but Rick Ross is definitely the boss. And everybody knows that G.O.O.D. Music is all about Kanye West, no matter how hot Big Sean or Pusha T’s latest track may be.
Black Hippy is a little bit different. First, they came out of nowhere to dominate the rap game. With a minimum of hype, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, Kendrick Lamar and ScHoolboy Q signed with Top Dawg Entertainment and began building a buzz by dropping independent mixtape/albums. Instead of cherry-picking established stars like MMG or having a big star develop younger talent as with G.O.O.D. Music, they did like Drake and “started from the bottom.” The members of Black Hippy were working out of L.A. at a time when Cali rap was not necessarily the hottest commodity in hip hop. Then they quietly signed a deal with Interscope/Aftermath, aligning themselves with Dr. Dre, the man who presided over the golden age of L.A. rap from N.W.A to The Chronic. And then Kendrick Lamar dropped good kid, m.A.A.d. city, which caught the whole rap world by surprise and suddenly became the most talked-about release of the year, hailed as a classic from the first week it came out.
Since K-Dot’s sneak attack, he has rapped with a who’s who of top artists (Jay-Z, Drake, A$AP, 2 Chainz, Miguel…) and has built anticipation for the next up from TDE, ScHoolboy Q. Their slow and steady approach to patiently building quality music has made Top Dawg Entertainment the big dogs in the rap game. What’s cool about TDE is that the artists maintain a close bond but still have the healthy spirit of competition that makes hip hop fun. They are really just working on their second major label release and haven’t even begun working on the project everybody is asking about — a Black Hippy crew album.
Trust and believe that a lot of rappers would not mind being down with their clique right now. But TDE is so methodical and hype-free that it would be a surprise to see them try to poach a big name from another camp. At this point, they probably receive a whole bunch of demos from new aspiring talents, but they can afford to be very selective before they even think about snatching up new artists. If the formula ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
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