Kendrick Lamar Scrapped ‘Good Kid, MAAD City’ Three Times Before It Was Ready

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Kendrick Lamar and Top Dawg Entertainment CEO Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith will cover the September 23 issue of Billboard, and their cover feature is a gold mine of insightful quotes and side-splitting reminisces from the pair of rap luminaries. At 47, Top Dawg has more than enough street tales and studio stories to fill a book, but it’s Kendrick’s revelation of the work ethic that led him to re-record his groundbreaking debut Good Kid, MAAD City four times that perfectly explains why TDE is indeed at the top of the hip-hop world today.

You were already working on Good Kid, MAAD City?

Lamar: Yeah, we did Good Kid about three, four times before the world got to it.

Meaning new songs?

Lamar: New songs, new ­everything. 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.

Top also relates the hilarious story of how he got his first studio set up, back in his hustling days.

Tiffith: They made me do this. [Laughs] When I built my studio, I was looking for equipment — I’m not going to name where I got it from. When we picked it up, this dude told me he could help put it together. [Later], I go and pick the dude up, and I say, “Yo, I got to blindfold you.” He’s like, “What?” I’m like, “Lay down back here. I’m not going to do nothing to you. You don’t need to know where you’re going. I don’t want you coming back, stealing my shit.” He’s like, “Oh, yeah, I understand.” I get home, pull into the garage, and my girl’s there. So when I was like, “Come on,” he pops in with the blindfold, and she thought I had kidnapped the n*gga. Like, “What the f*ck is going on?”

Lamar: This dude got stories like this all day.

Tiffith: The next day, when he got in the car, he was looking for his blindfold. [Laughs]

Billboard also got some choice quotes from TDE co-presidents Dave Free and Terrence “Punch” Henderson, reflecting on building the label into the rap empire it is today. It’s clear that TDE is a brotherhood as much as it is a business, giving their artists the creative freedom to experiment and reaping the rewards of success.