Dave Free is reportedly no longer co-president of Top Dawg Entertainment, the label known for elevating the careers of Kendrick Lamar, SZA, and Schoolboy Q.
Two insiders with knowledge of Free’s leaving confirmed the move, according to Rolling Stone. The sources say he’s already been working on his own for some time, apparently helping to boost the career of rapper Baby Keem, whose latest record Die for My B*tch has already garnered nine million streams. The move is no surprise to many, seeing as Free announced he wanted to pivot “heavy into the film game” last year.
While Free may be leaving Top Dawg, he left a lasting legacy by supporting musicians who have rose to icon status. He met Kendrick Lamar in high school and knew he was something special. As the story goes, he was working as a computer technician when Top Dawg hired him for some mechanical help. Free somehow found a way to play Lamar’s mixtape for the TDE founder, and the rest is history.
Though Free’s story of breaking Lamar to TDE sounds almost like the plot of a movie, he has said the methods used to break Lamar into the music scene were of their time. “None of the tactics we used back in the day to break Kendrick, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock or Schoolboy would work now,” Free continued. “It’s a whole new game. Blogs were very influential back then and I’d have to build a lot of relationships with blogs and now it’s just more about streaming. You have to have the relationships with the streaming sites and it can’t just be a fake relationship.”