TDE’s Patience With Their Artists Has Fostered An Era-Defining Catalog

04.26.19 4 weeks ago

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Schoolboy Q’s Crash Talk album has finally struck a streaming service near you. The long-awaited third album from the Los Angeles MC was originally supposed to be released last year, but the shocking death of Q’s close friend Mac Miller understandably delayed the process. During a concert last September, Schoolboy Q told attendees that, “with my n—a gone right now, I just don’t feel right putting out an album,” he said. “As y’all can tell, I’m not my real self right now. I shouldn’t even be here, right now.”

He also told the crowd that “I’m just not ready to walk in the radio station and the first thing they ask me is ‘So Mac Miller…’ I’m not ready to deal with the questions they have. So right now I’m not ready to put nothing out right now.” For most gold-selling artists, the prospect of halting an album that’s already two years in the making would cause an issue with their label, no matter the circumstances behind the delay. The most manipulative PR machines would even look at his relationship with Mac as a ploy to guarantee an abundant press cycle. But luckily for Q, Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Jay Rock, and the rest of the ever-growing TDE movement, label founder Top Dawg, President Punch, and the rest of the team doesn’t bang like that.

It can be difficult to balance the demands of industry with the delicate, maddening process of artistry, but the LA-based label does it as well as anyone in rap. The patience they maintain with their artists has resulted in thoughtful, thematically rich work like SZA’s CTRL album, Q’s 2016 Blankface LP, and Kendrick Lamar’s entire oeuvre. While the rap world’s other behemoth collective Quality Control releases a deluge of music, TDE flips that strategy by giving their artists years to refine their work, knowing that high quality will foster a devoted fanbase. TDE represents one spectrum of the long-discussed music rollout debate: you can stay in fans’ face with bangers, or you can come around when you’re ready with music that will stay in fans’ hearts.

Schoolboy Q’s album could be fit to be a 2019 favorite like SZA’s CTRL was in 2017. The singer-songwriter’s bold debut was a result of grappling with anxiety, and self-doubt for over five years, and almost quitting music altogether. SZA’s worries were things that have torpedoed lesser artists careers or resulted in music that wasn’t true to their creative potential. Drake told the LA Times that his 2010 Thank Me Later debut was “rushed,” and that he “knew what he was capable of with a little more time.” He said his second album, 2011’s Take Care was the exact “album he wanted.” SZA obviously wasn’t in the stratosphere of Drake in terms of anticipation for her debut album, but she went through a similar reckoning of trying to figure out what album she wanted to release, or if she even wanted to release music at all.

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