In August 2013, SZA became the first singer signed to Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE), a record label that also includes Black Hippy’s Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, ScHoolboy Q and Jay Rock as part of its roster. SZA recently spoke about what it’s like to be a part of TDE

“To be the first female on TDE is more…it’s really just more important to me to be a part of TDE, rather than the first female,” SZA said in an interview with MTV. “They’ve worked with girls in the past, incredible [artists] like Alori [Joh] and Jhene [Aiko]. So for me, it’s just honestly being a part of a collective, such as TDE. That’s what’s more insane to me. They don’t treat me like the girl, in the best ways though. No one tries to baby me or walk over me ’cause I’m a girl. They just let me fight for what I believe in and let me be as creative as I want to be and just give me free reign. So I love that.” 

“The thing that made it the right fit for me with TDE was definitely more of a personal, emotional decision, knowing [Top Dawg Ent. President] Punch, for like two years prior, of like non music-related…like no pressure…or running into them beforehand, just in the streets. They’ve always been kind to me. They’ve never been Hollywood, or funny. I don’t know. It’s really just the talent level. They aren’t the kind of label that will give you a bottle of champagne and a car when you sign, but they’ll give you all the studio time you could ever ask for and every producer you could ever dream of and all the support you could ever want and that’s real.”

Although she was happy to be the first singer on the label’s roster, SZA also said she did not celebrate too much upon signing with TDE

“I have this phobia of daydreaming and celebrating things,” SZA said. “I just don’t believe in it. I think it’s bad to do ’cause I’m a pessimist by nature. So I guess the first thing I’m thinking is, ‘Just get through year one and then you can celebrate year one.’ But I did do a really funny dance when I got signed and it’s on video.” 

SZA’s interview can be viewed below.

While SZA is the newest signee to Top Dawg Entertainment, TDE has been growing for years. Recently, Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith spoke about the label’s development and compared TDE’s lineup to Death Row Records. 

“I respect Suge [Knight] for what he’s done in music,” Top Dawg said during an interview with VIBE. “He had the Coast booming. They had a star roster; I think I have a star roster. Shit was a lot wilder back then and I think shit got a little out of control in certain situations. I try to stay calm. I try not to have the big entourage because sometimes when people see so many dudes moving they want to challenge you. We got a lot of similarities, but we don’t club like they clubbed ‘cause you always got someone that want to come and try some shit. Then you have to put a demo down on somebody and then the following week you gotta put a demo down on his brother, then his cousin. It keeps going and brings negative attention. We had that attention early in the game with Jay Rock—everybody thought [we was] gangbanging. We couldn’t get no shows; everybody was scared for us to show up at events. We learned from that too.”

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