As we wait for the next release from the TDE camp, let's delve back into the back catalog of two of its most respected veterans.
In some far-off alternate reality, the power rankings of Top Dawg Entertainment is unrecognizable from what we’ve come to accept. Once thought of as the fledgling label’s flagship export, the embryonic stages of TDE were practically structured to allow Jay Rock to rise to the top of the hip-hop mountain. Granted the unique distinction of being the first artist to release music on the label with the Lil Wayne and Will.I.Am aided “All My Life (In The Ghetto), his position as the colonel leading the charge has meant that many of the signees that followed were meant to file in behind him. As Kendrick was finding his feet as an MC under the TDE umbrella, one of the ways in which he cut his teeth was in the role of Jay Rock’s onstage hype man during the Follow Me Home era and beyond. Fast-forward to the release of Good Kid M.A.A.D City in 2012 and, in one fell swoop, Kendrick requisitioned any hope of Jay serving as TDE’s standard-bearer in a commercial or critical standpoint.
Blanketly overlooked by the casual rap fan for many years, the aptly named Redemption from last year finally gave TDE’s OG a chance to claw back some of the shine that had been deflected onto his fellow Top Dawg stablemates such as K.Dot, Q and SZA. For hardcore hip-hop fans, the upswing of praise that he’s received in terms of chart performance and even a Grammy nod was nothing if not agonizingly overdue.
Impactful upon nearly every appearance, the long-term misrepresentation of Jay Rock is something that has skewed public perceptions to portray him as a lesser calibre MC than Kendrick. But as he’s proven on numerous occasions, his trademark bluntness can occupy the same space as Kendrick’s lyrical abstractions without registering as a conciliatory add on.
One-time Bar-for-bar sparring partners during a long-form homage to the opposite coast known as No Sleep Till NYC from 2007, it’s time to pit their more celebrated collaborations head-to-head in order to establish if any major deficit between the two has emerged of if they remain at a comparative level of skill and rhyming ability.