Interviews

Kendrick Lamar Interview



Kendrick Lamar’s presence is all-encompassing, imposing, distinguished. This may not seem unusual for someone with his level of stardom, albeit relatively new, but it is in when taken in a more physical context. He isn’t the tallest of people. But since when did slight stature have any bearing on storytelling sense? It certainly never harmed the first poster boy of West Coast rap. While comparisons with the classic gangsta raconteur Tupac Shakur may be tough on Lamar, with an album as good as good Kid m.A.A.d city he’s sure making them look easy.

Kendrick Lamar Good Kid Maad City

For what is so immediately striking about Lamar’s major label debut good Kid m.A.A.d city, is its heartfelt narrative arc of twelve epic acts, abounding with unassuming sincerity that seductively draws the listener in. In lesser hands this could have come across as contrived or heavy handed, but when expressed by Lamar, we are presented with the poetic and candid portrait of a young man with deep-rooted humility and deep-rooted regrets. In a genre and lifestyle where bombast is the name of the game, his honesty is clean and refreshing. He does allow himself small doses of bawdy self-gratification such as in Backseat Freestyle, but in the context of an album that is never less than fascinating, such passing gestures feel earned rather than forced.

 

That’s dope, I really appreciate it. It’s great man. I put a lot of effort into this album so for the whole world to be recognising that effort is just confirmation that people really respect time, and the work ethic you know, so thank y’all.

 

On top of all this, it is easy to forget that a lot of the hype surrounding Lamar’s major label debut had to do with a certain doctor being involved. After his runaway successes with Eminem and 50 Cent, Dre’s A & R abilities have once again proved to be on point, uncovering not necessarily the rough diamond genius that was Slim Shady, or the instantly marketable Fiddy, but rather the simple kid from Compton who had already proven his chops with the promising Section.80. The pressure of being next in a line of successful protégés doesn’t seem to have fazed Lamar in the slightest; his demeanour post-show at Brixton Academy for a Radio 1xtra Live event is a relaxed albeit a tired one. It was easy to see even then, that he still carries a measure of that child-like naivety that is so prevalent in good Kid m.A.A.d city.

Kendrick Lamar Good Kid Mad City album cover

What made you want to include voicemail messages from your parents on the album?
Just being original, they weren’t just necessarily skits. I really wanted to tell a story about true events that happened in my life and that was a true event, you know, my mom and papa would always leave messages and I would never answer my phone. I was out doing things that I knew I shouldn’t be doing. Them wanting me to bring the van back is actually a true story of them actually leaving message on my phone all the time.

What provoked you to make a concept album about your childhood?
Really just taking a leftfield approach to everything. I know a lot of debut albums don’t really have that kind of concept anymore. I just really wanted to show this generation that it still exists, it can be done and it can be done in a way where it relates to these kids out here, not too over the top but something they can actually feel in concept form.

 

Dre gave me 100% freedom because he felt I was prepared. He’d heard my old projects and felt I was ready really to have this and didn’t have to stand over my shoulder and show me how to make things, how to make hooks and structure it, he really said ‘Go make an album and come back’ !

 

How did it feel constructing an album for a major label as opposed to a mixtape?
It really was no difference, truthfully, a lot of my projects were warming up to an album and by the time we signed to a major label people respected what we did independently already, where they didn’t want to have so much creative control if they wanted us to continue what we were doing. We were gonna do that regardless though. As far as creative control goes, it was perfect. Everyone just got in the studio and made an album that I wanted to make with no regrets and obviously they have no regrets either cos it’s doing quite well on the business end.

So is that what Dre offered you from a producer’s perspective, free rein?
Yeah definitely. Dre gave me 100% freedom because he felt I was prepared. He’d heard my old projects and felt I was ready really to have this and didn’t have to stand over my shoulder and show me how to make things, how to make hooks and structure it, he really said ‘Go make an album and come back’ and when I came back with it he didn’t wanna make any changes. The way the word has it, is the way I delivered it to him.

Kendrick Lamar Bonafide Magazine interview

How have you responded to people saying you’re the ‘saviour of West Coast rap’?
It’s a great responsibility, I think I’m up for it. I’ve put a lot of years behind this to know what I’m doing at least a little bit, I’m sure I’ve got time and room to grow. As of right now, I feel like I speak for a whole new generation of talent out there in the ability to be myself, and still cross over, you know, to the masses in the world. It’s inspiring for a lot of upcoming cats, so I definitely take that role.

But don’t you feel that it’s a double edged sword because in saying this they are tying you into these preconceived ideas of West Coast style of rap?
It’s really not a big deal, I mean I’m from the West Coast, I don’t take nothing away from whether they’re saying I’m continuing the tradition or trying something new. Either way, they’re listening and they’re respecting it which is good, and I’ll always be from Compton, I’ll always have the influence of the West Coast in me. I grew up listening to all the West Coast artists so, me taking it to that level and continuing that and recognising that is good enough for me.

 

I’ll always be from Compton, I’ll always have the influence of the West Coast in me.

 

Kurt Cobain comes up a few times across the album; do you have any other surprising musical influences?
A lot of neo-soul, Marvin Gaye, D’Angelo.

What do you think about D’Angelo’s renaissance?
Man, I think it’s great for the game, he’s still got his voice, he still sounds incredible, I’m sure the people still accept him the same way they did back in the nineties, so you know it all works.

How do you feel about Good Kid…being Bonafide’s album of the year?
That’s dope, I really appreciate it. It’s great man. I put a lot of effort into this album so for the whole world to be recognising that effort is just confirmation that people really respect time, and the work ethic you know, so thank y’all.

Words: Lev Harris

Kendrick Lamar interview in Bonafide magazine issue 07

Liked what you read? Cop the hard copy magazine here

You may also like...

Load more