When covering the New West, the name Kendrick Lamar will inevitably pop up. The Compton rapper has managed to convert mixtape and hip-hop blog adulation into a co-sign from Dr. Dre, who'll be contributing to his forthcoming Section .80 album.
Despite his high-profile admirer, Kendrick remains focused on his grassroots grind and is signed to independent label Top Dawg Entertainment. The 23-year-old and his fellow TDE labelmates — Jay Rock, Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q, all high-caliber hip-hop prospects in their own right — joined forces and formed Black Hippy. The talented rap quartet share a love for deft wordplay over thumping beats (see "Zip That Chop That" and "Rolling Stone"), making them one of L.A. hip-hop's most highly anticipated crews. More amazing is that most of their music is created in a tiny studio.
"Sometimes it gets a little difficult because there's four or five of us, so we somehow manage to squeeze in enough time to get our work done as well as the Black Hippy material," Ab-Soul explained to MTV News.
Thankfully, cramped quarters haven't stopped them from creating music that they continue to get out to more and more fans as their popularity grows. "It feels real good to see our music touch everybody, not just my color, his color, all colors of people and different cultures," said Jay Rock, a former Warner Bros. Records artist. "For all of those people to come together and watch us do our thing and show us love, that [gives] us the energy to do what we do."
Kendrick is set to appear on the good Dr.'s Detox and also has a joint project in the works with Roc Nation rapper J.Cole. Jay-Z's first signing will be producing 90 percent of the as-yet-untitled album, according to Kendrick, who specified that it won't be just a mixtape.
But props from Dr. Dre, J. Cole and others, isn't going to stop Kendrick and his Black Hippy family from working even harder to build on the foundation they've already created.
"A lot of people will be like, 'You good now, Dre messing with you,' " Kendrick said. "No, we're not good now. We've got to go 10 times harder. Just because that man is further in his career doesn't mean he could say one word and further my career right that instant. I've got to have the music to back it up and prove myself still."
Stick with us all week as MTV News turns the spotlight on the New West, the next wave of hip-hop acts helping restore faith in the L.A. rap scene. From groups like Odd Future to rising MCs like Dom Kennedy, we'll bring you up close and personal to these artists as they carve their own lanes in the post-gangsta rap era. Keep it locked here for the next week for more on the West Coast up-and-comers!