Hello everyone, and welcome back to the newest and smoothest article for Cypher Sessions. In this issue, we tackle a subject that might have crossed the minds of many Hip Hop listeners, but hasn’t made it out into conversation with their fellow music addicts and friends. If it has made it into the debate realm (or even less likely, water cooler musings), then it might remind a good chunk of the Hip Hop community of some debates had during the 90’s between the two coasts these two groups call in from. Not our intention to revisit East Coast-West Coast rivalry, but it IS our goal to compare the two and give our take on the two most popular crews in the game right now: Top Dawg Entertainment, and Pro Era. Let’s begin.
Top Dawg Entertainment (for those not familiar) is a Carson, CA-based label that has Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, Sza, and Isaiah Rashad on its roster. While most of the group has had success (Sza & Isaiah Rashad are new signees), there has been a continual rise for the career of Kendrick Lamar, and to a lesser extent, Schoolboy Q. This of course isn’t something that the label or the artists have a huge role in, but how they decide to accept that attention is something they can control. Kendrick may have his label mates’ back, but how he put forth is own image and didn’t put TDE first made it seem that he was only going to get “his”, so to speak. Ab Soul became vocal about how Kendrick was given more attention than the group as a whole, and it seems that many took this as complaining and not accepting the success of Kendrick. In reality, it wasn’t complaining but recognition of how the artists are depicted in the media, and recognition that Kendrick was putting himself ahead of the group. Let’s now look at their East Coast counterparts.
Pro Era is a very large collective from Brooklyn, New York that consists of Joey Bada$$, CJ Fly, Capital Steez (R.I.P), Kirk Knight, and Chuck Strangers among a total group of 47 members. The group has continued to tour together, feature on each other’s mixtapes, videos, etc. The group relies on the classic boom bap sound often credited to the New York City area in the 80’s and 90’s by many groups of time period. What makes Pro Era stand out is not just their throwback sound, their 90’s kangol hats and jackets, or their varying flows, but the fact that they always have each other’s backs. What’s more important to notice is not only how they are depicted in the media, but also that their actions do nothing to change that image. This leads us to our most important difference between the two, and why one group is doing better than the other right now:
Pro Era is just ahead of TDE because each member focuses on the group, and because Pro Era isn’t a label first.
This isn’t to say that the label holds all of the blame for perceived rockiness within the four core members’ relationship. But it IS to say that they have the resources and the ability to have more of an impact on how the music is created, and how the group members work together. Of course, it is refreshing that TDE seemingly allows its artists to work on their music in the manner in which they best see fit. That’s completely needed in the music industry in general and not just in Hip Hop. However, TDE is not doing the same things a crew does when comparing them to Pro Era. It’s always been about the group with Pro Era, and because of it Joey Bada$$ is not the only one gaining notoriety. CJ Fly is getting as much if not more attention right now than Bada$$ did when his music was first given notice. Capital Steez (R.I.P) who, after tragically passing on last year, is STILL getting buzz for his handful of mixtapes. Kirk Knight is on the rise, and producer Chuck Strangers is garnering notice as well. This formula works, as shown by another fairly notable Hip Hop group from the NYC 90’s (we believe their name was the Wu-Tang Clan?). This group has that capability. Hopefully they continue to work towards that level. Meanwhile, it would not be surprising to see a member (like Ab Soul) join a group like that (not that he has left TDE, but he IS on tour with Pro Era right now).
That’s enough conspiracy theories from us today, let us know what YOU think in the comments section below. Until next time, Thanks for reading and Peace!