Watts native honored with street intersection dedication

By Emilie St. John

Contributing Writer

WATTS — Music executive Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith was honored not far from the Watts housing project he grew up in by Los Angeles City Councilman Tim McOsker March 2. 

McOsker honored Tiffith, the founder of Top Dawg Entertainment, who grew up in the Nickerson Gardens housing project and continues to give back to the community through a variety of events.

“Starting today, whenever you drive through Central Avenue at Imperial Highway — either entering or exiting Watts — you’ll be passing through Anthony Tiffith “Top Dawg” Square,” McOsker said. “You can look up and be reminded of a great man from Nickerson Gardens, the founder of Top Dawg Entertainment, who is still leaving his mark on the world, but never forgot his roots and continues to give back.

“From holiday concerts and gift drives, to free Black Panther showings for Watts kids, to helping folks make their rent payments during the pandemic, Top Dawg’s impact cannot be understated,” McOsker added. “It was so powerful to be with his family, friends and … to recognize and appreciate a man who has uplifted so many.”

Top Dawg Entertainment was founded in 2004 by Tiffith. His son, Anthony “Moosa” Tiffith Jr., and Terrence “Punch” Henderson are the presidents of the label.

“Growing up in the project, it was tough,” Tiffith said. “You know, we went through a lot of things, but the goal was to come back, build and teach. I never thought I’d be standing here getting this intersection named after me. Never in my wildest dreams, and I appreciate it.”

Top Dawg Entertainment is home to artists like Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, Isaiah Rashad, SZA, Inglewood SiR and others.

As a young man, Tiffith began scouting local talent as a way to escape Watts’ street life. He built a recording studio, called “House of Pain,” and created Top Dawg Entertainment, inspired by his nickname, Top Dawg.

The label’s first signing was Jay Rock, who joined the label in 2005. Artists Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q. were later signed. Currently 11 artists are signed to the label.

McOsker acknowledged Top Dawg’s community involvement with the annual community Christmas event which features artists from his label.

“In December 2023, T.D.E. hosted its 10th annual Christmas event, an event that is marked by gracious resources provided to residents over a two-day period, including a star-studded concert for the community,” McOsker said.

Tiffith also was recognized at City Hall on March 1 for his contributions to his community.

“We are acknowledging this great man and this great organization, but also Watts, which is full of so many next Top Dawgs,” McOsker said. “There is so much talent and there’s so much opportunity, and we lift each other up when we come together.”

Watts continues to go through a dramatic transformation as more retail development has come online and the revitalitization of nearby housing projects that began in 2017.

Rock shared how grateful he was for meeting Tiffith.

“I mean he put me in the studio and gave me an opportunity,” Rock said. “He not only did that for me, but you know, he took me like his own and raised me up to be a better man that I am today.

“This is a big dawg,” Rock added. “You know, I’m saying, I love you. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me and for the community.”

Emilie St. John is a freelance journalist covering the areas of Carson, Compton, Inglewood and Willowbrook. Send tips to her at emiliesaintjohn@gmail.com.