Takeaways from Kendrick's new 45-minute interview.
Kendrick Lamar is notoriously media-shy, which is why we should pay special attention to his new 45-minute interview with Zane Lowe.
The conversation has some light-hearted moments, like when Kendrick tells the story of when his dad and Top Dawg reunited in the studio for the first time, but for the most part it is serious exposition on the conception of DAMN. in relation to To Pimp a Butterfly, how he altered his course after Donald Trump won the election, and how he stays motivated—moreso than ever—despite all his success.
This interview reaffirms Kendrick Lamar as a quiet, contemplative, calculating, and deeply passionate artist. Watch it in full and read 15 of its most enlightening quotes below.
He’s not interested in how people react to his music on the internet
"As soon as I [finish] mastering, I just turn that thing [off] and I try not to listen to it or see the actual response for a while. Because I’ve been attached to this piece of art for the last year and some change…. I don’t want even to hear it. I just want to give it to the people and let them live with it and breath it. And then when I come back on that stage, that’s when I want to feel it. That’s when I want to see your reaction. Because I can’t see your reaction on the internet.”
He plans out his records before he records them
“Prior to me going in and recording the record, everything is probably 80% pre-meditated first before I actually put the words over the reference track or go to the studio and lay down vocals. Everything for me is about execution. I can go in with a thousand ideas but if I'm not executing it right it doesn't feel like home to me.”
He factors in longevity when making music
“I like to put a lot of different things and wordplays and messages in my music because I want it to live further than two weeks. Further than the attention span of how we all was as kids. We take it, we listen to it, and move on. But I want it to live for the next 20 years. You have to listen to it over and over again to understand the direction and the message I put it on there. The execution of it. I want you to do that. I want to challenge the way you think and the way you take in music. That’s what excites me.”
Jay Z was one of his biggest early influences
“My boy Dave will tell you, I was in his garage and all my ad-libs sounded like Jay Z. My words, my flow. With Jay Z, I wanted to have the conversational type of wordplay and aspect of things. He just felt like he was natural and he was fluent with it.”
Tupac is still the golden standard
No matter how many times I come into my own Kendrick Lamar, which I felt I’ve done over the years, I will always have that sense of reaching a certain standard as far as empathy and compassion towards a record the same way Pac approached music. It will always be in the back of my head to never forget that. No matter how big the hit record gets, no matter how big the album gets always have that compassion. And that’s why his memory and his legacy in my music will never leave.
He is incredibly motivated
(On being the greatest rapper alive:) “I got to. I’m so passionate about hip hop, man. I love it to a point that I can’t even describe it. And when I heard these artists say they are the best coming up, I said, I’m not doing it to have a good song or one good rap or a good hook or a good bridge. I want to keep doing it every time. Period. And to do it every time, you have to challenge yourself, and confirm to yourself, not anybody else, that you are the best. No can take that away from me. That’s my drive and that’s my hunger that I will always have.”
He’s a thinker
“I sit and I think all day.”
DAMN. & To Pimp a Butterfly compliment one another
“To Pimp a Butterfly would be the idea of the thought of changing the world and how we worked and approached things. DAMN. would be the idea I can't change the world until I change myself. So when you listen to records like 'PRIDE.,' 'HUMBLE.,' 'LUST.,' 'LOVE.,' these are all just human emotions and me looking in the mirror and coming to grips with them. Thinking of the idea of the word itself and combine them in two records. I would hope the listener can take heed and grab something from both of them two ideas and carry out their day to the best potential of themselves they see."
He recorded a lot of songs about the election
“I have a lot of records [about the election]. Just off of pure frustration. Just off the simple wow-factor of what’s going on. What happens is, I have these records, and there are certain things in these songs that I may pull pieces from to make sure that it’s covered.
But the album isn’t *about* Trump.
"I wanted more self-evaluation and discipline because — what’s going on now — we're not focusing on him. Whats going on now: we focusing on self."
Him and Mike WiLL Made-it have been waiting years to collaborate
“We been in the studio for a loooong time. Longer than you guys would know. But we never made records. We always say to each other, one day we gonna make them records. We gonna make them joints. And we always say, timing. That’s our thing. Timing is everything.”
He had Kid Capri record an insane amount of takes
“Kid Capri was one of first ideas I had for this record. I wanted it to feel like just the raw elements of hip hop. Whether I’m using some 808s or whether I’m using boom bap drums. The initial thought was having him on some real trappy 808s shit, something I’d never heard from him. I got in the studio, man, and I had him do like a thousand takes. He knocked them shits out.”
He’s a big Rihanna fan
"I’ve always wanted to work Rihanna. I love everything about her. Her artistry, how she represents women to not only be themselves but to express themselves the way she expresses herself through music and how she carries herself… she’s a vibe itself."
His meeting with Barack Obama caused him to reevaluate his concept of change.
“What I took from that experience was the idea of knowing that it’s gonna take more than just 8 years to make a change. A lot of times, being a kid when he was elected, not a kid just a younger adult, we get the idea—well, I got the idea that shit was going to do a 360 like that. So me have a conversation with him and him sitting me down, he says, ‘Change doesn’t start while I’m here, it starts once we leave the space that we’re in’... That was the experience, that was something that I always hold dear, just knowing that in the moment of time, I have to think further than this year or last year. You gotta prep yourself for the next decade of what you’re going to do that’s going to result in change.”
His dad and Top Dawg flipped out when they got together in the studio for the first time
"About a year after I met Top Dawg, I met him when I was sixteen, my Pops came to the studio after I’d been locked in with him for a minute and we got a relationship now, bring my Pops through. He heard I was dealing with Top Dawg but my Pops personally don’t know him as Top Dawg. The industry know him as Top Dawg. Before he was Top Dawg, he was another name. So when he walked in that room and he seen that Top Dawg was this guy, he flipped. Still ’til this day they laugh and they laugh and they trip out and they tell the same story over and over to each other."