Before Kendrick became Top Dawg Entertainment’s flagship artist with three number one albums and a handful of platinum plaques, he was signed to Def Jam Records, one of the greatest rap record labels of all time.
This was in 2004; Kendrick was 17, around the same time Jay-Z was named president of the record label, and the two rappers would bump into each other years before their first collaboration on 2013’s “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe (Remix).”
Kendrick Lamar: I don’t think even Jay remember that. This was when I was like first turned 17. And I remember coming out here for a meeting and I was too excited man. And all I remember was Jay walking in the room, ‘Yo, what’s up?’ And walked back to the elevator and we was like ‘Damn, that’s Jay.’ So he doubles back, goes back to his office next door and he’s playing my music. Put me in the studio and that was just one of those situations where I wasn’t ready.Kendrick Lamar Speaks On Previously Being Signed To Def Jam | HipHopDX
While the Def Jam situation failed to materialise into anything significant, Kendrick remembered the opportunity left him feeling motivated about his recording. The Compton rapper continued to grind away at his music, dropping his first full-length project, Youngest Head Nigga in Charge (Hub City Threat: Minor of the Year), which led to Top Dawg Entertainment taking notice and signing him.