Wale got his first airplay circa 2003-2004 with "Rhyme of the Century," thanks to the help of a local radio DJ who believed in his potential. This landed him in the Unsigned Hype column in Source magazine the following year. In 2006, Wale signed with the local start-up imprint Studio 43, owned by a former VP of Roc-A-Fella Records, and enjoyed a string of hits in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area that year. Many of those records sampled from '80s go-go -- a more raw, percussion-driven offshoot of disco originating in D.C. -- like the popular "Dig Dug," a tribute to Ronald "Dig Dug" Dixon of go-go band the Northeast Groovers. Smart use of the Internet and MySpace was also a big factor in his success, as it helped British über-producer and DJ Mark Ronson (known for his work with Amy Winehouse, Christina Aguilera, and Rhymefest) catch wind of the go-go MC in 2007.
Wale struck a production deal with Ronson's own imprint, Allido, and released the 100 Miles and Running mixtape that summer. Despite not being signed to a major label, he was met with a good deal of positive press, ranging from XXL magazine to The New York Times. After a bidding war that included offers from Epic, Atlantic, and Def Jam, Interscope finally grabbed Wale for its roster in early 2008. The full-length Attention Deficit followed the next year. In 2011 the Ambition album landed along with its single, Chain Music.
Sledge's first work in the industry was on a Dave Hollister record in 2001, titled "For You", which he co-wrote alongside Gerald Haddon. Sledge's vocals were first featured on a high-profile single in 2006; a song by Chicago-bred rapper Kanye West titled "Impossible", released in promotion for the 2006 American film Mission: Impossible III. In February 2012, he independently released his debut studio album, Pineapple Now-Laters. Sledge subsequently secured a record deal with Motown, in August 2012. The label then serviced the Pineapple Now-Laters song "Good Luv'n", as Sledge's commercial debut single.
Lamar first gained major attention in 2010, after the release of Overly Dedicated, his first retail-release. The following year he released his first independent album, titled Section.80, exclusively through iTunes. The album received critical acclaim and instantly ranked as one of the top digital hip hop releases of the year. Early in his career, before releasing his major-label debut, Lamar amassed a large internet following and had already worked with prominent artists such as Dr. Dre, Game, Drake, Young Jeezy, Talib Kweli, Busta Rhymes, E-40, Warren G and Lil Wayne, among others.His major-label debut studio album good kid, m.A.A.d city, was released October 22, 2012, to widespread acclaim.
West was raised in a middle-class household in Chicago, Illinois, and began rapping in the third grade, becoming involved in the city's hip hop scene. West attended art school for one semester before dropping out to pursue music entirely in the late 1990s. Although his real desire was to become a rapper, record executives did not take West seriously, viewing him as a producer first and foremost. After being signed to Roc-A-Fella in 2002, West released his debut album The College Dropout in 2004 to commercial and critical acclaim.
Since 2006, Rock has released several mixtapes and is perhaps best known for his 2008 commercial debut single, "All My Life", which features Lil Wayne and will.i.am. Rock is also known for being a member of hip hop supergroup Black Hippy, alongside fellow West Coast rappers and TDE label-mates Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul.
In 2008, Hanley released his first full-length project, a mixtape titled ScHoolboy Turned Hustla. He then released a second mixtape in 2009, titled Gangsta & Soul. He then followed up with his first independent album, entitled Setbacks, released in January 2011. The project, released under TDE to digital retailers only, reached number 100 on the US Billboard 200 chart. A little over a year later, his second independent album Habits & Contradictions, was also released exclusively to digital retailers. The album received generally favorable reviews and debuted at number 111 on the US Billboard 200.