The Los Angeles rapper took the handoff from Top Dawg Entertainment label-mate Kendrick Lamar and scored a touchdown when his new album "Oxymoron" opened at No. 1 two weeks ago. It's the second straight strong showing for TDE and Q, who sees it as the start of a championship team.
"Somebody has to step up besides Kevin Durant," said Q, who has been making the rounds at South By Southwest this week. "Somebody has to step up beside Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. They can't do it by themselves. Football is the best example, you can't win by yourself. A good quarterback can't win a championship. The linebacker can't win you a championship. The coach can't win you a championship. It has to be everybody."
Q held up his part of the deal, delivering a critically praised major label debut that compares favorably to Lamar's Grammy Award-nominated breakthrough "good kid, m.A.A.d. city" in its grittiness and authenticity. Given the opportunity in front of him, the rapper could have aimed for pop radio success, but instead made an LP that reflects his life as a father and former gang member.
The 27-year-old began his TDE run as Lamar's hype man and calls King Kendrick his brother, giving him the credit for his moment.
"That's how it goes in any successful label—you have to roll off somebody," Q said. "It's just up to you to take advantage of the opportunity because there's plenty of rappers that have friends. Like you have a friend rapper, but he never gets to drop an album or nobody cares about his single, nobody really cares about his project because it just wasn't as good."
Terrence "Punch" Henderson, one of TDE's two founders, said the back-to-back successes—"good kid" debuted at No. 2 upon release in November 2012—show where the label is headed.
"The first time with Kendrick wasn't a fluke," Henderson said. "Q came out, got a No. 1 album, but the album's actually great. It's a great record and that's what we aim towards, to put out great music."
Henderson reaffirmed plans to release a new album from every label member this year—SZA is up next on April 8. That list includes Lamar, who he says has recorded 12 new songs but may throw them out and start anew.
Interest is high. Lamar was one of the top nominees at the 2014 Grammy Awards, but was shut out in what turned out to be a hip-hop landslide victory for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Though Lamar didn't win, he teamed with Imagine Dragons for one of the night's most powerful performances and attained a new level of popularity.
"The performance was crazy, probably the best performance of the night," Henderson said. "I'm not just saying that because that's my artist, either. After that all the controversy behind him not winning, that's keeping him in all the conversations. It keeps us as an underdog. There's no ceiling. If you win, where do you go after that? So it gives us something to work towards still."
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