Phil Jackson Fixes Five Rap Labels: Top Dawg Entertainment
By Keith Nelson Jr (@Jusaire)
Phil Jackson is a hustler, but not of the ilk that can sell water to a well. The 11-time NBA Champion coach is of the breed of hustlers that can convince the well to sell the water to itself. On March 18th, 2014, The Zen Master was announced as the President of Basketball Operations for the New York Knicks. A little over a month later, he fired the entire Knicks coaching staff including Mike Woodson, the 1st coach to help the Knicks win its first playoff series in years.
For a five-part series, I will use quotes and coaching tips from the greatest living NBA coach and help five rap labels in turmoil fix their situation.
One of their main artists is publicly expressing doubts about the direction of the label and implies regret over what the company has described as progress. Schoolboy Q's solo debut album Oxymoron was originally scheduled to be released on October 2013 but was not released for another six months. According to Q in a Grantland article, he only planned one radio single, however Interscope "demanded three singles" before his album could get a release date.
Then Q said this...
Phil Jackson actually solved this problem with another ambitious TDE member driven by the arrogance of autonomy. Kendrick Lamar quipped that even if Phil Jackson returned "still ain't no coaching me. I'm uncoachable" in his HULK SMASH of a "Control" verse back in August 2013. The Zen Master :
As an innovator of the Triangle Offense, Jackson would help Schoolboy Q understand that small individual sacrifices (complying to radio) will help the greater good of the team (TDE) and thus ensure his continued individual success. I mean, Jackson used to quote from American Buddhist text Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living to help Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls back in the 90s regain their focus. He even informed Oprah back in June 2013 of ones of his favorite lessons from the book that he used to inspire Jordan and the Bulls:
"No man is an island. No man goes his way alone. What I put into the lives of others will come back into its own."
So, he'd probably convince Q to get with the program with some fake deep quotes such as "can't be a Schoolboy without the school" or "can't have a bucket hat without Giligan's Island".
One of their founding members has made repeated threats to act against the best wishes of the group due to feelings of being left out and not made a priority. After a XXL cover was titled "Kendrick Lamar & Black Hippy" in October 2013, Soul threatened to leave Black Hippy. Ab-Soul is the only TDE artist to not be featured on any one of the last four TDE released projects in over a year and a half. In the two years prior to signing with Interscope, Ab-Soul was featured on every TDE project and released two of his own.
Before Jackson would even begin to speak to Soul, he would immediately demand that one person meets with him in his office: Top Dawg Entertainment's CEO Dangeroo Kipawaa:
If there was one thing Jackson stressed to his players and in his book Eleven Rings is that while Jackson reserved "final authority" on all decisions, he did not lead a dictatorship:
Some coaches insist on having the last word, but I always tried to foster an environment in which everyone played a leadership role — from the most unschooled rookie to the veteran superstar. If your primary objective is to bring the team into a state of harmony and oneness, it doesn’t make sense for you to rigidly impose your authority.
TDE's CEO's response to Soul's frustrations revealed an unharmonious environment over at TDE. Why else would a boss revert to publicly chastising an artist and then claiming part ownership of that artist by describing him as "a nigga on MY team"?
After scolding TDE's CEO, Jackson would take a more compassionate route towards the perturbed genius:
My approach was always to relate to each player as a whole person, not just a cog in the basketball machine. That meant pushing him to discover what distinct qualities he could bring to the game beyond taking shots and making passes. How much courage did he have? Or resilience? What about character under fire? Many players I’ve coached didn’t look special on paper, but in the process of creating a role for themselves they grew into formidable champions.
Instead of shelving two Ab-Soul projects (solo debut, collaborative album with JMSN) while signing and releasing projects from two new artists in an 8 month span (Isaiah Rashad & SZA), repurpose Ab-Soul's frustrations into something helpful. Jackson has changed player's natural positions on the court in the interest of the team's success. Maybe Soul, with the least buzz of the entire group, should release a monthly EP series and switch from being an album artist to one with more condensed, concentrated shorter projects, thus ensuring replayability even if fan interest isn't optimal. Also, TDE NEEDS to make sure placing Soul on every TDE project becomes a necessity.
I mean, Jackson even helped Michael Jordan let Steve Kerr take a game winning shot in the NBA Finals. Let Soul let his album fly!