Kendrick Lamar weighs in on the "real hip-hop" debate.
Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly was probably the densest album of the year, through a combination of its grandiose musical arrangements, disparate influences, political themes, and very technical rapping. While this made the album a critical success, it also made it the go-to project for a certain type of rap fan to describe as "real hip-hop".
The unending debate over whether or not rap that focuses on social commentary and lyricism should be more valued than songwriting-based acts was brought up again recently, as Hot 97's Ebro criticized Complex's choice of putting part rap hitmakers Rae Sremmurd at number 3 on their list.
Naturally, Kendrick Lamar's TPAB was used as an example of what rap "should" be, but when Pusha T, a rapper old-heads would very much describe as "real," came to the defense of the Sremm bros, it was clear that the purist ideology might finally be dying out.
In a new interview with the New York Times, Kendrick agreed that hip-hop doesn't need to fit into a certain box to be considered "real". When asked about his favorite rap this year, he mentioned a couple of surprising names.
"Of course Future killed it. He smashed. Drake smashed. Future’s work ethic was crazy, his energy," he said. "This is the thing about hip-hop music and where people get it most misconstrued: It’s all hip-hop. You can’t say that just what I do is hip-hop, because hip-hop is all energies. James Brown can get on the track and mumble all day. But guess what: You felt his soul on those records."
K-Dot went on to explain the appeal of this particular kind of rap.
"If it makes you feel good, and it makes you move — I don’t know these guys personally. I don’t know what makes them move on a personal level. I can’t knock it. It feels good when I listen to it, when I’m in that vibe," he said. "You feel it. You can get the highest level of that — you can get Future — or you can get the watered-down version, somebody else trying to be that. That’s the bad [expletive]."
Does this mean Kendrick would be down to get in the studio with Drake and Future? We hope so. Read the full conversation here.