Dancehall artist Assassin talks about how he ended up on Kendrick Lamar's "The Blacker The Berry."
Kendrick Lamar's new song "The Blacker The Berry" once again put the internet topsy-turvy, with the rapper dropping it the day after The Grammys and managing to take the spotlight away from the awards show, instead placing it on his powerful record. The cut featured a dancehall artist from Kingston, Jamaica, Assassin. The MC spoke to XXL recently detailing his role in the record, and how he ended up being involved. You might recall he was also featured on Kanye West's "I'm In It" off Yeezus, so it's not the first time he's landed a high-profile feature.
Assassin revealed that it was actually Canadian rapper Kardinal Offishall who reached out to him about the Boi-1da-produced cut. "I got the call from Kardinal Offishall saying that Boi-1da was exploring this track and maybe wanted to get a Jamaican perspective. I guess my name came up and he forwarded the track to me. It was just a skeleton—a demo—with the overall vibe of the track that I got. I did the verse and I did the chorus and I sent it back and that was the last of it until early this month, end of January. Kardinal told me that the guys are going to go through and put the record out. That’s pretty much how it came together," he said, later revealing his part was recorded in his native Kingston.
However, at the time, there was no Kendrick verse on the instrumental- "They did mention Kendrick, but there was no Kendrick verse on it. It was just a demo, like a basic idea of something I could write to. I knew that it was for Kendrick. That’s pretty much all I heard and knew," Assassin told XXL. "From the skeleton that they sent I really just picked up the vibe from what that was. They sent the chorus and I did my interpretation of it. Hearing the finished version, it came together fantastically."
"It’s a powerful record and it’s very timely. Like he said in the lyrics, the listeners and the witness will determine what is being said. I like that. Music is so much about interpretation; people get different things from it. But at baseline, it’s just a very powerful piece and I’m happy to be apart of it. Much respect to Kendrick and Boi-1da for including me with their vision of dancehall on the record," he added.
For those interested in hearing about how the Kanye collaboration came together, he detailed that as well. Read it below.
"I was in Jamaica and I get this call saying there’s this project going on in Geejam Studios for the Kanye project. But it was supposed to be a compilation album, from what I understood at that time. It wasn’t supposed to be for a straight-up Kanye album. I went down there and I did some verses. They ended up liking me and they selected it.
They were recording in Portland in Jamaica, in a studio called Geejam. The engineers there—I work in Geejam sometime—they know all my work, so I got the invite. There were some other local artists in the session as well, but they ended up choosing my verse."
Listen to "The Blacker The Berry" below.