Billboard released the cover for its inaugural Hip-Hop Power Players issue Thursday, featuring Kendrick Lamar and Top Dawg Entertainment CEO Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith on the cover. In the accompanying interview, Lamar praises Top Dawg's supportive approach to cultivating creativity among its artists, and Tiffith revealed that Lamar actually owns a percentage of the label.
"You hear about homies going to studios and they've got to rush their verses, hurry up before somebody else comes in," Lamar said of his first TDE studio experiences. "I got to actually do a verse, scrap it, do it over and just perfect my whole shit. And that gave me the upper hand among other artists.
Tiffith opened up about TDE's plans to enter the film industry, noting that Lamar will be heavily involved with each step. "People really don't know that Kendrick owns a percentage of TDE," he said. "The movie, the TV shit that we're working on, Kendrick's going to be executive producer on whatever we do."
When asked about those Suge Knight comparisons, Tiffith adamantly disputed them. "Have you seen any of his qualities in me?" he asked. "You're not seeing me go crazy, beating on anybody, arrested every week. If they were talking about success, I would've been cool with that because he had great success. But they judge us brothers like that. They put us all in the same box."
Revisiting his critically acclaimed major label debut good kid, m.A.A.d city, Lamar revealed the album went through several changes. "We did good kid about three, four times before the world got to it... New songs, new everything," he said. "I wanted to tell that story, but I had to execute it. My whole thing is about execution. The songs can be great, the hooks can be great, but if it’s not executed well, then it's not a great album." Maybe one of those alternates included the version of "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe" that featured Lady Gaga on the hook.
Lamar also discussed his most recent album, the chart-topping Damn. When asked about the true story behind the track "Duckworth," Lamar said Tiffith—the subject of the song—was surprised by his quick execution. "It's a story that we both knew," he said. "But I think he was kind of blown away by the fact that it was executed within three, four minutes. I didn't approach it right the first two times. And I knew these were my three favorite [9th Wonder] beats. I just wrote, wrote, wrote until the idea finally came." Tiffith said the song "touched me like a motherfucker."
Lamar and Tiffith's expansive interview and cover story is part of Billboard's new Hip-Hop Power List project. The list is compiled by the publication's editors and reporters using a variety of determining factors, ranging from consumer behavior impact to career trajectory. Tiffith, Kanye West, Jay Z, Paul Rosenberg, and more all made the cut for their continued contributions to the forward motion of hip-hop.