Top Dawg Entertainment is on top of the world in 2017. But just a few years ago, conditions were a little more humble as they were climbing their way to the top.

Director Pedro Bermudez of Revisionist Films recently unearthed some footage that he shot in Carson, California at a recording session back in November 2011 that gives a little insight into the early days of TDE. Kendrick LamarAb-Soul, and Jay Rock are seen hanging out (and sleeping) in a small studio as ScHoolboy Q lights up and records reverses.

Perhaps even more interesting than the footage itself are the stories Bermudez tells us about the whole experience. Hanging out with the Black Hippie members before Habits and Contradictions had dropped, he had a look at their creative process before these guys became the biggest stars in rap. Continue for a few behind-the-scenes gems he shared with us.

Top five rappers dead or alive chalkboard:​

On a black chalkboard over the booth, they had their top five rappers dead or alive, with a principle next to each one. Big Pun was creativity, Pac was charisma, Nas was knowledge. I forgot the other two.​

Studio chemistry:

It felt competitive but relaxed, and funny. Q especially. Between Kendrick, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, and Jay Rock the feeling was like they were brothers. In the video Kendrick’s asleep in the corner of the room. They practically lived in that studio. The energy was focused and it was creative.​

Gift from Dr. Dre:

There was a brand new red velvet sound booth right in living room. Dave Free mentioned they just got it as a gift from Dr. Dre a few weeks before.​

The weed was strong:

Kendrick wrote a line on the slate, and we rolled for a second before Q got up and left. He came back a minute later with 5 jars of bud, rolled a backwoods and passed it around. At the peak my friend on camera lost his balance bouncing to tracks, almost dropped a $50,000 camera. powerful smoke.


Watch the footage above, which was illustrated and animated by Chris Piascik and Kurt Wallace.