11 TDE music videos that commanded your attention at first watch
Over the past decade, few record labels or collectives have pushed the culture of hip hop forward, while producing quality material quite like Top Dawg Entertainment.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.
Over the past decade, few record labels or collectives have pushed the culture of hip hop forward, while producing quality material quite like Top Dawg Entertainment. Founded by Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith in 2004, the label enjoyed a landmark year in 2011 with releases from flagship artists Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul and Jay Rock; which led to a joint venture deal with Interscope Records. Dominating the charts with successful debuts from Lamar and Q, TDE began to expand its roster. Signing additional talent like SZA, Isaiah Rashad, SiR, Lance Skiiiwalker, Reason and Zacari; the label has established itself as one of rap’s biggest brands, known for rolling out critically acclaimed bodies of work, while staying true to their core values.
The music may be the label’s bread and butter, as well as the driving force behind its longevity. However, TDE has also made waves for the riveting visuals created in support of its artists’ biggest hits. Working with a slew of directors and creatives including Dave Free, APLUSFILMZ, Jack Begert, and The Little Homies; TDE’s stable of talent have been responsible for some of the definitive clips of this era and have restored the belief that music videos truly matter.
In light of Top Dawg Entertainment’s reputation for unveiling captivating shorts that entertain and provoke thought, REVOLT highlighted 11 of the label’s most memorable music videos to date. Check them out below.
Ab-Soul ft. Jhene Aiko & Danny Brown: “Terrorist Threats”
Fredo Tovar and Scott Fleishman craft the optics for this politically charged salvo from Ab-Soul’s Control System album, which finds the Carson native bucking against the powers that be. Shot primarily in black and white, the clip opens with Jhene Aiko dressed in a TDE hoodie. From there, Ab-Soul and Detroit connect Danny Brown mob through the city, burning dollar bills amid images of beacons of terror and political oppression. These images include the collapse of the Twin Towers, the Ku Klux Klan, and American troops. Conspiracy theories are on full display as the Black Lip Bastard opens viewers’ third eye with this visual.
Kendrick Lamar: “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe”
One child peeks out from behind a church pew while another prays during the opening moments of the music video for Kendrick Lamar’s “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe,” which is set during a funeral service for a fallen friend. From paying his respects to the dead to reflecting in a serene field — which is ultimately the site of the burial — Lamar runs through the gamut of emotions in The Lil Homies and OG Mike Mihail-directed clip. Boasting a cameo from Mike Epps, who assumes the role of an evangelist, the visual injects moments of humor with introspect.
Isaiah Rashad ft. SZA: “Ronnie Drake”
Isaiah Rashad recruits Fredo Tovar and Scott Fleishman to bring the visual for this Cilvia Demo cut to life, which finds Rashad in his natural habitat: Chattanooga, Tennessee. Shot in black and white, the video has all the trappings of southern comfort with soul food, broken down vehicles and back-roads all prevalent in the slums of the lyricist’s stomping grounds. From Rashad nurturing his infant child to co-star SZA cruising through the town on a bike, each scene in the vid promotes the simpler joys of life and embodies the spirit of those dwelling below the Mason-Dixon.
Schoolboy Q: “Man of the Year”
Palm trees and waterfalls are aplenty in the accompanying visual for Schoolboy Q’s Oxymoron single, which finds the Hoover crip lounging on beaches and cruising the mainland amid a plethora of eye candy. Directed by Fred Tovar, Scott Fleishman and Dave Free (of The Little Homies), the video — which concludes with an epic bonfire — captures Q basking in the scenery while exploring his surroundings. This results in one of the more lighthearted, yet entertaining clips in the TDE videography.
Schoolboy Q ft. BJ the Chicago Kid: “Studio”
Viewers get a glimpse into Schoolboy Q’s creative process in this Jerome D-directed visual for his Grammy-nominated single “Studio.” The video begins with Q video-chatting with a scantily clad hottie, who shows off her curves in a persuasive manner to coax the TDE rapper out of the booth and into her clutches. Featuring BJ the Chicago Kid, who reps his hometown in a Chicago Blackhawks jersey, the video fixates on the sacrifices that come with life as an entertainer and the temptations that come along with the terrain.
Kendrick Lamar: “Alright”
Kendrick Lamar’s ominous wails set the tone for this Colin Tilley-directed affair, which balances youthful expression with scenes depicting oppression against minorities at the hands of law enforcement. The beginning scene shows Lamar and his Black Hippy cohorts in a car being carried by police, while jamming to a snippet of an unreleased song. The video — which was filmed on Treasure Island in San Francisco, and Los Angeles — captures K. Dot floating through the air and surveying the pandemonium going on around him. Following an epic climax, Lamar ends the clip baring a smile, symbolic of the song’s premise that everything is gonna be all right when all is said and done.
Kendrick Lamar: “HUMBLE.”
Lamar threw down the gauntlet with this video for the lead-single from the superstar’s DAMN. album and took his visual ambitions to the next plateau. Directed by Dave Meyers and The Little Homies, the video — which commences with Lamar clad in a cope and presenting himself as the pope of Compton — finds the rapper firing C-Notes out of a money gun, frequenting a beauty salon, and playing to the song’s lyrics. Whether it be showing off his ‘left stroke’ with the swing of a golf club, or reenacting pivotal moments in pop culture and religion, Lamar puts forth one of his most captivating artistic statements.
SZA: “The Weekend”
Solange Knowles is the visionary behind this accompanying piece for SZA’s breakout single from her Ctrl album, which matches the seductive with the elegant. Dancing on a balcony of an ivory tower, a parking garage, and garden; SZA dives into her performance art with unbridled passion, gliding across each setting with the nimble grace of a ballerina.
Jay Rock ft. Kendrick Lamar & Future: “King’s Dead”
Pandemonium runs rampant as Jay Rock, Kendrick and Future flex their corporate ties in this rambunctious short, which was directed by Dave Free and Jack Begert. Opening with Lamar and Rock reporting live from the comfort of a palm tree, the visual places the TDE brethren and Future atop various skyscrapers throughout the city, as Free and Begert toy with the camera angles. However, the video’s most memorable scenes involve Lamar, who assumes the role of gun-toting madman who’s directing traffic with the twirl of a hand, while creating chaos and anarchy.
Karena Evans helms the camera for this serene visual in support of SiR’s single from his debut studio album, November. Set on the island of Jamaica, the clip finds the TDE signee partaking in the finest herbs while spending quality time with his significant other. Partly shot using 35-mm film, Evans’ visual encapsulates the essence and culture of the locals — both young and old — and provides the perfect backdrop for SiR’s ode to the good life.
Jay Rock: “Win”
A group of musicians clad in TDE baseball jerseys let the trumpets blow in this music video promoting Jay Rock’s single from his Redemption album. Directed by Meyers and Free, the vid presents Jay Rock in a tuxedo, white-beater, and various other looks while flanked by running-mate Lamar. Surrounded by eye candy, shooting stars and flaring flames, this celebratory affair includes guest appearances by key members of the TDE camp. It also captures Rock planting his flag and rising to the occasion.
Be sure to catch “The Best of TDE” music block on Friday (July 12) at 9:00 p.m. ET only on REVOLT TV. Check out where you can watch the channel here.
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