TDE is one of the most prominent labels in the game right now and the label's co-president Terrence "Punch" Henderson is a big part of that success. After spending many years behind the scenes grooming the label's artists, Punch recently decided to venture into the talent realm himself, releasing two records. Titled "Project Mind" and "Untitled," Though he'd rapped before—he appeared on earlier projects by Ab-Soul and Kendrick Lamar—Punch's records took the hip-hop world by surprise, with verses full of wisdom and laced with the talent of a veteran MC.

While most people look at him as solely an executive these days, XXL got Punch on the phone to find out exactly what he's up to. Talking full length projects, label deals, and finding inspiration from growing up in the hood, Punch laid out his plans, or general aspirations, for his own hip-hop career. Hiiipower. —Miranda Johnson

Maurice Hennessy Private Tasting & Dinner

XXL: Why did you choose to release the tracks now? Did you want to rap all along?
Punch: I’m more so of a writer than an actual rapper. I don’t consider myself an artist like that. But I have more fun recording than anything; I guess it’s a form of expression for me. But I was just sitting at the house one day and I was going through some of the stuff I recorded and I was like, "I’m going to put it out.” See how the people feel about it.

I know you were on Kendrick’s Kendrick Lamar EP a while ago. Why did you decide to stop putting out music or hopping on tracks?
I mean, the way that happened, that was an actual moment. The particular song you’re talking about, “Faith,” he had pretty much 80 percent of the song done, and I heard it. And at the time, my older relative had got shot and killed. So it was a lot of things on my mind or whatever, so when I heard that, I connected to him and I hit him like, "I need to do something on this." He gave me the green light, so that’s how that came about. It was an actual moment that happened. That’s how it really works with all of the features that I’ve been on with anybody in the camp. We’ll just be in there vibing or I’ll come in there and hear something. You know, it just works organically.

Are we going to hear you on any new tracks coming from the TDE camp?
Possibly. I’m not closing the door on it, but we talked about a few things. Last thing I did was on an Ab-Soul project ["Beautiful Death," off Control System]. Me and Ab-Soul have a tradition—I be jumping on all his projects, everything that he ever dropped. So you know, we’ll see. It just has to fit, though. I’m not forcing it just because I can.

Will there ever be a Punch project?
Possibly. I pretty much got it done. It’s just crazy because I’m not under the pressure of a deadline. Like I don’t have a date or anything. No guidelines that I have to fall up under. So I’m just constantly working on it to keep building it. So at some point if I decide to put it out, I’m going to have to stop working.


Do you feel it would be hard to balance if you went on a promo run and still had to manage things with TDE?
Possibly, but if I was to do it, I would have to do it 100 percent based on how I feel or how I want to do it. It wouldn’t be traditional at all. I don’t even know if I would do a promo run. You know, not even put credits on it. However I want to do it. I don’t know.

Let’s say you were to go as far as signing a deal. Would you sign to TDE? Have you thought about that at all?
I don’t know—they would have to cut the check. I got the cheat code, I know all the prices. Nah, really though, I don’t know. I haven’t really went that deep into it besides the actual art of it.

Would you ever consider signing with a major? Would you ever hop on the Interscope board?
Only way I would is if they would 100 percent go off how I want to do it. If somebody says they’ll do it exactly how I want to do it, then yeah, I would definitely consider it.


Is there anybody in the industry that you would want to work with? An artist that you want to feature on a song?
Yeah, just Nas. Nas is the only person, because the whole project that I did was inspired by his song “Project Window.” And then my project would be called My Project Window. So it’s my perspective of growing up on the West Coast in the projects. So it would only be fitting if he was on it.

You have a song called “Project Mind.” What exactly is a project mind?
It’s different things to different people. For one, because no two people are alike regardless of if they’re in the projects or wherever. Certain scenarios from people I know, and even my own perspective, it's certain things that people don’t necessarily know are wrong growing up in that environment. Like, we would be playing in the sandbox and it would be razor blades and syringes all throughout the sandbox. And like we would be just skipping around them, 'cause we don’t even know that’s wrong and that it’s not supposed to be there. So it’s just a different prospective on life, different struggles and different concerns.

Do you feel that you have to use your project mind a lot when it comes to the music business?
Absolutely. My whole motto, “Hustle like you broke,” comes from Top Dawg, who’s my blood relative and he’s also from the same projects. So that’s been our motto in the music business—to hustle like you're broke. It’s from that environment. It’s all the same. It’s basic human relations in any field you're in. Whether it’s the music business or you’re working in a restaurant, whatever you do. You have to manage personalities.


TDE has a pretty hefty roster now. Are you guys looking to sign anybody new?
Yeah, all the time, but I don’t think anyone is actively looking for anyone right now. Everything that’s happened so far has happened organically. Like when I found SZA or when Dave Free first heard Isaiah Rashad, it was all organic. We wasn’t looking for these people. It just sort of happened and they fit the fold.

You guys work a lot with BJ The Chicago Kid. Is there any future with him in TDE?
I think BJ got his own situation right now [with Motown], but he’s always been somebody that’s been there from jump. He was on Jay Rock’s first album. He was on mixtapes early on. BJ is family, him and Jhene [Aiko]. But they got their own situations, but if something presented itself later or whatever, I’m sure it wouldn’t be an issue.

Top Dawg said that TDE would be dropping six albums this year. I know you said that you haven’t been taking your own project that seriously, but could one of those possibly be yours?
When that was said, that wasn’t in the plan, but I don’t know, probably. It’s a possibility. We’ve got to have that conversation and make sure everyone is on the same page. It’s different with me though, 'cause I know all the prices. I know what it takes to build an artist and I don’t know if I necessarily want to do that.

How did you start out in the game? Did you start out writing or were you always behind the scenes?
Nah, it kind of all happened at the same time. I always wanted to write and was interested in flipping the English language and that whole thing since I was a kid. But you know, certain artists did it in such a different way that it made me interested in the music business as a whole. So everything kind of developed at the same time.

Kendrick has a famous story about seeing Tupac and Dre film the video for “California Love.” Do you have any cool moments like that?
When I was a kid in the projects, [West Coast Rap All-Stars] had shot “We’re All In The Same Gang.” It was the West Coast answer to “Self Destruction.” So it had Eazy-E on it, Dre, Young MC, Digital Underground. Everybody on the West Coast that was making noise at the time came together to do this song about peace and unity to stop all the gang violence. That was shot in my projects. I remember walking through outside and seeing all these different people who came to shoot the video. That was a crazy thing. My uncle actually was the one who put everything together. It was done on his label.

So the music business is kind of in your blood.
Yeah, I would say so. He was pretty successful at what he did with a couple artists that he put out and on the production side. Yeah, it’s kind of in us.

Previously: TDE’s Punch Featuring Jay Rock And BJ The Chicago Kid, “A Project Mind”
TDE Co-President Punch On The Label’s Five XXL Freshmen
TDE’s President Punch Drops New “Untitled” Track
TDE’s Punch On Next Moves, Signing SZA And The Ruff Ryders From XXL’s Oct/Nov Cover Story