Hip-hop used to be made by groups like Public Enemy, Wu-Tang Clan and Run-DMC. Not anymore. Twenty-first century hip-hop is dominated by solo rappers like Jay-Z and Eminem. (Time the transition to the release of Outkast’s split double album, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below). It makes sense financially. No more splitting the check, fewer egos in the room. But some of the most critically acclaimed hip-hop of the past few years has been made by four musicians who call themselves, collectively, Black Hippy. Based in Carson, Calif., the group and their management are making a new model for hip-hop that sounds like an old one.
These days, Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul spend basically all their time together, but the quartet didn’t grow up friends. They didn’t meet at school. They’d all been working on rap music by the time they met. They were plucked from all over Los Angeles one by one, and installed in a tract house in a cul-de-sac right off the Gardena Freeway.
YouTube “I actually kept them locked up and working together inside there,” says the man who gathered them. “They couldn’t do nothing but bond.”
I spoke with Top Dawg, as he’s known, in another house on the same cul-de-sac. Once a street guy looking to go straight in the music industry, his real name is Anthony Tiffith. And before he signed a single rapper, he’d already built a studio and tried working with producers, then R&B singers. But he discovered that rappers can record the most songs in the least amount of time.
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