Loyalty, loyalty, loyalty.
Clear blue skies set the scene as Top Dawg Entertainment hosted its 4th annual concert, toy drive, and giveaway at Nickerson Gardens housing project in Watts, Calif. on Thursday (Dec. 21), where the label’s stars came out to spread cheer in the community that helped give birth to the hip-hop powerhouse.
Kendrick Lamar, who hails from nearby Compton, closed out the free show, but he didn’t come alone. Instead, King Kendrick was joined by Rihanna, who was previously announced as a special guest. Dressed in all white, Bad Gal sauntered onto the stage in Off-White “For Walking” knee-high boots to join K-Dot for the first live performance “LOYALTY.”
As the geeked and fired-up crowd roared in excitement, Rihanna announced that she wasn’t done. From there, RiRi launched into a moving medley bangers, including “Bitch Better Have My Money,” “Lemon,” and “Wild Thoughts.” Rocking his own pair Off-White Air Force 1 sneakers, Kung Fu Kenny stayed on stage for the mini-set, backing her up on every song, before resuming his hit-filled set with “DNA.,” “ELEMENT.,” and “HUMBLE.”
With the sun setting on Nickerson Gardens, K-Dot fered parting words for the fans. “Every time, every year, this is brought to you by the good folks at TDE,” he said. “We love and appreciate every single one y’all that brought something out for these kids. If you don’t do it for nobody else, do it for the kids. That’s the future. That’s the generation that’s going to evolve everything that’s going on out here.”
Before Cortez Kenny and RiRi wowed the crowd, TDE delivered a star-studded bill filled with familial camaraderie. The label’s burgeoning R&B star SiR opened with “W$ Boi” and “Something Foreign,” as ScHoolboy Q popped up to lend an assist. Groovy Tony took it from there, sparking a medley that included “THat Part” before handing the mic to Isaiah Rashad for “Free Lunch” and Ab-Soul for “Huey Knew THEN.”
Jay Rock, a hometown hero who was raised in these projects like TDE CEO Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, received a warm welcome back, as he performed fan favorites like “Vice City” and one the label’s first breakout songs, “Hood Gone Love It.” Rock made way for special guest E-40 to cook, performing “I Don’t Fuck With You” and “Choices (Yup).” Following a remarkable year, SZA was all smiles with crowd pleasing renditions “The Weekend” and “Love Galore.”
Last year, Jay Rock spoke with Rap-Up about the significance the event, which is meant to bring holiday cheer to the kids in Watts. “It feels good to see us doing some good,” said the Watts representer. “When people look at the projects, they know what it is, but it feels good to put a smile on people’s faces…It ain’t nothing like doing good in your backyard and providing for the less fortunate. Being able to come back and do that is a blessing.”
–Words and photos by Andres Tardio