As a former signee of one of rap's most notorious imprints, Uncle Snoop is more than qualified to speak on the differences between both West Coast labels, and pointed out why TDE will never be akin to Death Row.
"They're not the new Death Row because TDE did it completely differently than Death Row did it," he said of the label, home to Black Hippy (Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock and Ab Soul), Isaiah Rashad and singer SZA.
Although TDE founder Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith likened his label to Death Row in the past, there's one major difference between both companies, Snoop explained. "Death Row did it with a gangsta approach. We was smashin' on n----s, f---n' people up, we was determined to be the hardest, meanest, baddest, coldest, roughest, toughest in the game.
"That was our mission. TDE, rappers. They peaceful, they love, they get down, they rappers from everywhere, and they represent hip hop. They don't represent negativity and violence, and trying to mash and disrespect. Death Row, we came out disrespectful. Eazy-E and anybody that came out with Dr. Dre, that was our first get-down, was 'f--- them n----s up first.' That's not TDE mentality. Their mentality is, 'cool with everybody.'"
TDE has picked up on the Death Row's competitive mentality on wax however, particularly Lamar, who went after many of his rap peers on Big Sean's "Control" over the summer. His lyrical jabs at Drake, J. Cole, and Wale prove he's been influenced by the label, Snoop said.
"Kendrick Lamar flipped out on everybody, that's that Death Row influence," Snoop explained. "That may have caused him to backslide and feel a certain way, which I support fully, and his thoughts on what he said because I'm from the West Coast. F--- everybody that got a problem with it. But I don't feel like TDE and Death Row are the same thing in any way. I feel like Death Row paved the way for TDE to do it in their own way, so they can stay around for 20 years from now."
Founded in 1991, Death Row Records rose to the height of rap fame with Snoop, Dre and Tupac Shakur on the roster, only to fall into financial turmoil in its later years. Former CEO Marion "Suge" Knight earned a reputation for intimidating artists, allegedly dangling Vanilla Ice over a balcony by his ankles, and bad business dealings. The label brought in over $750 million in revenue and sold close to 150 million records (including iconic releases like Doggystyle and The Chronic) yet never quite recovered after Shakur's 1996 death.
By the turn of the millennium, Death Row earned much of its money from Shakur's posthumous catalog, which wasn't enough to keep the company out of bankruptcy. It was auctioned off to Canadian company WIDEawake Entertainment Group for $18 million in 2009. WIDEawake's parent company, New Solutions Financial Corp, eventually went bankrupt, and Death Row was sold to Entertainment One earlier this year.
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