Kendrick Lamar gives an insightful interview to NPR.
Kendrick Lamar is capping off 2015 with an interview that reflects on his youth in Compton and his struggle in coping with fame and success off the back of a platinum debut album, and more recently, 11 Grammy nominations. The rapper sat down with NPR and delivered insight on all these fronts.
Topics of gang violence and murder are often tackled within Kendrick's music, especially what he witnessed growing up in Compton. During the brief interview with NPR, Kendrick explains witnessing his first murder and how it affected him.
"It was outside my apartment unit," Kendrick says. "A guy was out there, serving narcotics, and somebody rolled up with a shotgun and blew his chest out. We kids play in this apartment unit, riding our bikes or what not, so admittedly it done something to me right then and there, to let me know this is not only something I'm looking at but it's something maybe I have to get used to, you dig what I'm saying?"
When asked "how close" he was to becoming entangled into gang life, Kendrick replies, "How close, I was on the edge, fast, in a hurry. You grow up inside these neighborhoods in these communities, and you have friends, friends that you love, friends that you grew up with since elementary and you have their trust and their loyalty. So it brings influence. So no matter how much of a leader I thought it was, I was always under the influence, period. Most of the time when they're involved in these acts of destruction, I was right there."
He goes on to discuss To Pimp A Butterfly, in particular, the spoke-word refrain where he appears to be talking to himself ("I remember you was conflicted, misusing your influence..."), and which ultimately leads to Kendrick screaming in his hotel room one night. He describes where the feeling was coming from with NPR.
"What was the feeling? The feeling was missing home," Lamar says. "The feeling was, I should be with my family right now when they're going through hardships, with the loss of my dear friends that's constantly passing while I'm out on this road. The feeling was, 'How am I influencing so many people on this stage rather than influencing the ones that I have back home?' That's the feeling: being inside the hotel room, and these thoughts I'm just pondering back and forth while I look at the ceiling all night."
Finally, Kendrick speaks about a line from "The Blacker the Berry" that stirred some controversy in relation tot he Black Lives Matter movement. Kendrick raps, "So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street, when gang-banging make me kill a n**** blacker than me? Hypocrite!"
He explains, "It's not me pointing at my community; it's me pointing at myself. I don't talk about these things if I haven't lived them, and I've hurt people in my life. It's something I still have to think about when I sleep at night.
"The message I'm sending to myself — I can't change the world until I change myself first," he adds. "For instance, when Chad was killed, I can't disregard the emotion of me relapsing and feeling the same anger that I felt when I was 16, 17 — when I wanted the next family to hurt, because you made my family hurt. Them emotions were still running in me, thinking about him being slain like that. Whether I'm a rap star or not, if I still feel like that, then I'm part of the problem rather than the solution."
Listen to the audio below.