Kendrick Lamar, Brooklyn Bodega's Exclusive Interview
Kendrick Lamar is a Hip-Hop prodigy. You can hear it in subtle undertones and bombastic explosions of lyrical and unmitigated perspective splattered all over his latest EP, Section.80. Sometimes he embodies Bone Thugs N Harmony. Sometimes he embodies Houston. Sometimes he embodies Eminem. And throughout, with never a smidgen of swagger jacking or copycat accusations ever entering any conversation about him -- Kendrick Lamar improbably embodies the best of the best of Hip-Hop while always ensuring that Kendrick Lamar the person resonates most deeply. A number of things can be said about any of the number of It-Artists-Of-The-Hour, but few ever reach the level of artistry that this Kid From Compton is currently two-stepping all over. It’s enough to remember what made this culture go global in the first place.
BrooklynBodega.com spoke to Kendrick Lamar minutes after his 2011 Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival performance about Section.80, the continuation to “No Make-Up (Her Vice)”, Ice Cube comparisons and why his interviews are hotter.
Brooklyn Bodega: You’re like the most popular guy in rap right now. How does it feel?
Kendrick Lamar: I ain’t popular, man. I’m just putting out good music.
Brooklyn Bodega: That’s consistent with what you said on “Ab-Soul’s Outro” on Section.80. You said you’re not the next pop-star, you’re not the next socially aware rapper. You’re a human being. Obviously that sentiment resonates through your music, but also through your interviews. Jay-Z kicked that line, “Plus my interviews are hotter.” Your interviews are hotter. You’re an amazingly open, exposed artist in interviews. In the internet era, that’s extremely hard to find. There are cameras everywhere. People are constantly running up to you wanting to talk to you. How do you continue to find the time and consideration to still be open?
Kendrick Lamar: By just not forgetting about who I am. I can’t change my appearance and who I really am just because there’s a lot of people around me because eventually -- if I continue to do that -- I’m going to lose myself forever. And I’ve seen artists do that in the city. Artists that I looked up to. It’s just learning from other people’s mistakes when you get into the business because it will jade you at the end of the day if you don’t know yourself and really dig deep and know who you are from the jump, before everybody crowded around you.
Brooklyn Bodega: You’ve had a great support system around you from your family to everyone at Top Dawg Entertainment. Top Dawg’s held you down now for seven years or so. How important has it been to you to have people around you who will not only tell you when your music is wack but also when you’re acting wack?
Kendrick Lamar: Exactly. Team. That’s what hurts maturity of other artists: when they don’t have a set of people around them they can actually trust. A lot of people go into this business with just themselves and just the talent. At the end of the day, you need loyal people around you that believe in you from the jump and can get you to that next level. That’s what Top Dawg Entertainment did for me, man. They brought me in the game when I was seventeen in the studio just rhyming. They were fans of me and said, “You know what, we believe in you and we’re gonna tell you our honest opinion and you’ve gotta be able to take it.” And I did. I live with it. I got hurt a few times in the studio sessions, man. But it all made me a better person, a better artist at the end of the day.
Brooklyn Bodega: You know, you always come across as extremely confident and extremely self aware, but I think one of the most telling stories was when Top Dawg wanted to charge for the projects and you were like, “I don’t think my fan base is really there, yet.” That’s the only instance I’ve been able to find where you ever seemed like you doubted yourself.
Kendrick Lamar: I was doubting myself to the point where I felt like it was a cocky thing, know what I mean? These people don’t know me yet. They’re gonna want to know the story before they go and purchase anything because I know how the game works. You’re not just going to pay your last few dollars on somebody that you [don’t know yet]. And on first instinct, when people hear your music, the first thing they’re going to do is criticize you anyway. So I wanted to feed them enough music so they’re like, “OK, I can’t deny this artist.” But [Top Dawg] was telling me that this is good fucking music. They wanted to bring this shit back to real shit that everybody wants. Let them go out and pay for it. I said, “You know what, that’s a true statement, man.”
Brooklyn Bodega: They were right.
Kendrick Lamar: Yeah, they were right. The higher powers that be, man. I just had to give in and go with it and it worked out positively.
Brooklyn Bodega: It’s real interesting when you hear “Rigamortus.” You’re like, “Don’t ask for your favorite rapper. / He dead. / I killed him.” That’s the exact opposite of that self doubt you expressed. You just spazzed all over the track.
Kendrick Lamar: Yeah, man. I just wanted to have fun on that mutherfucker. I know the whole album is really a cohesive project with concepts. I just wanted to have one of those things where people are like, “OK, he can still do that thing right there. That raw element of Hip-Hop.”
Brooklyn Bodega: People compare you to a number of artists but everyone is initially surprised when they find out you’re repping Compton. You get compared to a lot of all time greats and now working with them. You just finished working on Detox. I think you and Ice Cube share similarities. He wasn’t actually in a gang either. He never really spent that much advocating weed on wax.
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