TOP DOLLAR: Everybody with a checkbook is vying for a deal with Top Dawg Entertainment. Deals for founder/principal exec Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith and artists including Kendrick Lamar (who owes Interscope one more album), SZA (who owes one more set to RCA), ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock and more are gathering momentum. Attorney Josh Binder is repping Top, Kendrick and SZA. Will the Kendrick and SZA deals be shopped separately from the label deal or as part of a gigantic package? Does the impending arrival of Archie Davis at RCA—whose relationship with Top is said to be tight—have any impact on the deal-making for any of the above?

HITCO LIVES UP TO ITS NAME: Nascent indie label Hitco has notched its first hit—Yella Beezy’s “That’s on Me,” which has reached #1 at Urban. In this case, though, “indie” definitely doesn’t mean small. Word is the company has super-deep pockets, thanks to some avid investors, and can compete at the highest level in the acquisition of talent.

POPPO CULTURE: The Tina Tchen-headed task force is believed to be dipping its tendrils into Recording Academy affairs well beyond its ostensible brief. While the task force doesn’t have veto power at the org, it unquestionably wields influence, and is working on multiple fronts to counter the mostly white, overwhelmingly male status quo. In terms of the awards show, it’s said to have injected far greater diversity than ever before into the nominating subcommittees, extending far into genre categories. Will they be able to pierce the veil of secrecy around how the Secret Nominating Committee operates and who is on it? All this unfolds amid a leadership vacuum. Though the Academy enlisted Korn Ferry to compile a list of candidates for its new chief executive, the conventional wisdom is that the Board of Trustees, whose decision it is, will likely anoint one of their own, to keep the balance of power in their hands. Board of Trustees Chair John Poppo and New York-based Vice Chair/Warner exec Ruby Marchand have signaled their interest in the post, which lame duck Neil Portnow will relinquish next year. It would seem there’s growing support for Marchand, whose well-rounded industry background and inclusion among the “Women of Influence” on the T.J. Martell Foundation board seem more aligned with the changes demanded of the Academy. Poppo, though held in high esteem for his tireless service to the organization, is a walking, talking example of the old (white) boy network that dominates the Board and the rank-and-file as the task force pushes for diversity from top to bottom.

SWIRV ON: Remember when Irving said he was getting out of the management business? LOL. Well, his management company—in conjunction with son Jeffrey and Brandon Creed—is having a monster year, according to those who keep track. “Young blood is important in our business, and I wanted to work with taller people,” Irving recently explained.

The combined roster of Full Stop, which Azoff the Elder joined in March 2017, includes The Eagles, Steely Dan (now raking it in on tour with the Doobie Brothers), Journey, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Van Halen, Lindsey Buckingham, Bon Jovi, John Mayer, Harry Styles, Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani, Chelsea Handler, HAIM, Sara Bareilles, Mark Ronson and Meghan Trainor, with Maroon 5 and Travis Scott (both having career-best years) the most recent additions to the ginormous enterprise.

One agent in the know said the only substantial deletion Azoff made was kicking Jared Leto and 30 Seconds to Mars to the curb. They’ve been on a self-managed self-destruct path for years, this insider claims.

Part one: Fireworks and Cohiba Smoke