Ed. Note: The following interview with Terrence “Punch” Henderson is pulled from the outtakes from XXL‘s TDE cover story in our upcoming Oct/Nov issue.
While Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith is the namesake and visionary behind the growing Top Dawg Ent. empire, it’s TDE Co-President Terrence “Punch” Henderson who oversees the company’s day-to-day operations. As Top Dawg’s cousin and a former (and sometimes still) rapper, Henderson serves the role of an underboss, a big brother and artist liaison. He also has a wicked ear for music—earlier this year, he A&R’d and executive produced Terrace Martin’s heady and jazzy 3chordfold. Henderson’s largely responsible for the discovery of TDE in-house producer, Sounwave and bringing Ali, the label’s engineer into the fold. Likewise, he’s the reasons TDE has its first non-rap act in SZA, a Maplewood, NJ native whose stylings have been self-referred to as “glitter trap”—a mix of old and new waves, electro and R&B. His hands-on approach often begins as conversations, which sometimes turn into verses. Like that one time he spoke to Kendrick about hip-hop being overly-friendly. —kris ex
XXL: What’s your day-to-day like now?
Punch: My day-to-day consists of a lot of e-mails. E-mails and meetings. Business is crazy right now. Before I had all the time in the world to just be in the studio, giving advice and arranging songs or whatever it is. But now it’s just mainly just e-mails and trying to get in the studio as much as possible. My role is to really fill the gaps. I recognize everybody’s strong points so I let them do them and I try to come in and fill in whatever is missing at the time.
So who’s next? Or what’s next. I know [ScHoolboy] Q is next. He’s officially on the Interscope schedule and everything, right?
The way it’s broken down, Kendrick is Aftermath/Interscope/TDE, Q is Interscope/TDE. Everybody else is strictly TDE for right now. We’re talking to labels about doing a full label situation. We’re not budging, so the terms gotta mach. The way we see it, [we can] roll everything out how it’s been rolling out. Section.80 sold 100,000 copies. That’s all us, just on iTunes—no physical copies. We done met with everybody, though. Everybody’s trying to do it.
Is that like the Ruff Ryders did that model, where you’ve come out and you have your marquee artist but he’s already at this spot [Interscope] and people want to get in on the business but they can’t get in on the Kendrick business because it’s locked, so they try to get in on the TDE business?
Would that be something you guys are willing to do, where you’re working with different labels and learning different systems?
There’s different ways to do it—Wu-Tang split everybody up. They had guys here, there, all over the place. Basically, if one guy is here, everybody’s here, really—’cause everybody’s going to be on the project, so everything is intertwined. Or you can go the route where you just put everybody in one thing [and] concentrate all the forces there. There’s more than one way to skin a cat. With us, it has to match what we’re asking for. We’re not gassed, but we’re not budging. We don’t need to budge, really, at this point. Kendrick been touring three years straight and he just dropped his album last year. So that’s before [the] label, before radio—we’re already reaching these people, and now our platform is bigger. We still have Black Hippy as a group—all four of the guys; that’s an artist in itself. It’s different ways to do it. I don’t want to go too specific on the terms of what we’re asking for, but we’re not going to move off of what we asking for.
Without being specific, what are the main things that you feel are important that you guys maintain in terms of the identity of the company, the solvency—I guess the fidelity of your brand?
The main thing to us is to have creative control, first. Like, after all the money or whatever is agreed to, we have to have control of what we’re doing, to put it out the way we want to put it out, because it’s been successful so far on the level we’ve been on. Even with Kendrick, everybody didn’t believe in his first project. The projections were 70,000 the first week—that’s what they were telling us he was going to sell and he came out and surpassed that. We already knew ’cause we were at all the shows. We seen him selling out venues from coast to coast and that’s based on our formula, so we have to stick to how we do things, our mode of operation.