Kendrick Lamar [INTERVIEW] K. Lamar Talks About His Big 2015

Started by Jordan, Dec 30, 2015, in Kendrick Lamar Add to Reading List

  1. Jordan
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    Jordan ⛴⛵️✈️

    Dec 30, 2015
    Kendrick Lamar on the Grammys, Black Lives Matter and His Big 2015
    [​IMG]Kendrick Lamar on “Saturday Night Live” in 2014. Dana Edelson/NBC

    LOS ANGELES — On “To p---- a Butterfly,” Kendrick Lamar’s overflowing post-fame album, he was, in his own words, a king, a hypocrite, a sinner and a prophet. Awash in black music, black pride and shame, he attempted to propel the ghosts of Nelson Mandela, Tupac Shakur, Huey Newton and Michael Jackson through the will of his conflicted rhymes. “As I lead this army make room for mistakes and depression,” he warned at the end. Heavy was the head.

    But on one afternoon in December, he was just content. Grinning, loose and nearly horizontal on the couch of his crew’s office, Mr. Lamar, 28, had reason to exhale: He was recently nominated 11 times in nine Grammy categories, including song (“Alright”) and album of the year (for the second time). In addition to being the most critically acclaimed album of 2015 and topping many year-end lists, “To p---- a Butterfly” (TDE/Aftermath/Interscope) has also sold more than 750,000 copies and been streamed 375 million times, according to Nielsen, all without a hit single. Instead, the song “Alright,” which earned four nominations, has become the unifying soundtrack to Black Lives Matter protests nationwide.

    “This album did what I wanted it to do,” a load-lightened Mr. Lamar said while wearing a hoodie that read “Compton,” his hometown, within the silhouette of the African continent. “That’s not necessarily to sell tons of records — though it didn’t do bad at that either — but to actually have an impact on the people and on the culture of music.”

    The Grammy nominations are proof, he added. In 2014, Mr. Lamar infamously went 0 for 7 at the awards with his major-label debut, “good kid, m.A.A.d. city.” He insists those losses, including the one for best rap album to Macklemore, didn’t stick with him. (He did win two Grammys for the song “i” in 2015.) But that’s not to say he doesn’t want to win now. (The ceremony will be held Feb. 15.)

    Mr. Lamar discussed the nominations and looked back on his banner year, including learning that President Obama is a fan and coming to terms with his role as a generational spokesman. Following are excerpts from the conversation.

    Q. You’ve made a point in your career not to covet or exult traditional milestones like platinum plaques or hit singles. Where do you stand on Grammys?

    A. Being acknowledged for your work is always a great accomplishment, whether it’s people in my city, kids in the street, all the way up to the Grammys.

    Were you surprised that the Recording Academy responded so strongly to the scope of your vision, which wasn’t necessarily for these institutions?


    Kendrick Lamar in a Los Angeles studio in March 2015, a few days before “To p---- a Butterfly” was released. John Francis Peters for The New York Times
    I wasn’t surprised. The Grammys have taste. They’ve had taste for a long time. I’m just more excited that they recognize the time and effort put into the project — gathering all these musicians in one place for six months to a year at a time. It is truly appreciated that they can hear the different influences inside the record.

    That’s the biggest accomplishment as far as the nominations: that people recognize it as an album. It’s not just a collection [of songs]. We pride ourselves on that. I wanted it to be that body of work again the same way I did with my first record. This time around, I wanted to make sure that not only were the lyrics appreciated or the beats, but the musicianship, as far as my writing skills, my arrangements. That’s me challenging myself.

    Eleven nominations is one fewer than Michael Jackson’s record.

    I’m still soaking that all in. Michael will forever be the greatest. I’m glad it was at 11. I would never want to even think about putting myself on the same level as Michael, simply because I haven’t put in the work that he did. It couldn’t be a better number.

    Is there one award you want to win above all?

    Ultimately, for the hip-hop community, I would love for us to win them all. Because we deserve that. Period.

    A hip-hop album winning those general interest categories would be a statement.

    I want all of them. Because it’s not only a statement for myself, but it’s a statement for the culture. They’re all important, because of the foundation the forefathers laid before me. Nas didn’t get a chance to be in that position. Pac. So to be acknowledged and to actually win, it’s for all of them.

    When did you realize that “Alright” was becoming an anthem for Black Lives Matter?

    When I’d go in certain parts of the world, and they were singing it in the streets. When it’s outside of the concerts, then you know it’s a little bit more deep-rooted than just a song. It’s more than just a piece of a record. It’s something that people live by — your words.

    Did you expect it to connect on that level?

    Definitely. Simple phrase: We gon’ be alright. It’s a chant of hope and feeling. I credit that to Pharrell, for being able to present an arrangement and to inspire me to do a record like that. Immediately, I knew the potential.

    Does this feel to you like an artistically vibrant moment for political and explicitly, radically black music?

    Music moves with the times. It’s not something we have to consciously do. This is what’s happening in the world — not only to me but to my community. Whenever I make music, it reflects where I’m at mentally. And this is where we’re at. When you look at other artists doing the same thing, it’s of the times. And it’s much needed.

    President Obama said “How Much a Dollar Cost” was his favorite song of the year. Did you know before everyone else, or did you find out from People magazine?

    I found out when everyone else found out. It’s crazy. That’s one of my favorite records, too. A lot of times we forget that people in higher places are human. To hear that he liked the same kick drums and the same snares that I like, it just makes him that much more relatable as a person, rather than just a president.

    Why the decision to play live only occasionally in intimate settings instead of going on the world tour that usually follows an album of this size?

    The album just felt like an intimate process. It was all feeling. Maybe in another five, 10 years we’ll be able to take it on a world tour and give it its proper exposure. But present time, I just want to hold it dear. I didn’t want to overexpose it. It could be in arenas one day. I don’t feel like the time is right.

    What was your favorite rap music of this year?

    Of course Future killed it. He smashed. Drake smashed. Future’s work ethic was crazy, his energy. 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.

    So you don’t buy this separation between “real hip-hop” and party records?

    No, I don’t. 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. 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].

    Did you follow the Drake and Meek Mill back and forth?

    Nah, I didn’t. That’s they thing they got going on over there.

    How much of this year did you spend making new music after “To p---- a Butterfly”?

    I’m just writing, writing, writing. I keep these tablets on me until I’m inspired to go back in and make the music. I never take a break from my pen, because I pride myself on that. As far as a break from music, yeah, I can’t just go in and force myself. I have to come from an original and organic place. It can come tomorrow; it can come two years from now.

    You’ve said you’re getting more used to being a role model.

    It’s still a work in progress. Perfect example: Going out to the [Compton Christmas Parade, where he served as grand marshal] and seeing these kids’ eyes light up. I’m looking at them like, man, I was one of y’all before. The more I get to see it visually and hear their words, the more it helps me aspire to inspire. Every time I think about that, it gets me out of my own selfish ways. It’s not just for me. It’s for these kids out here that hang on to these words. They’re more dependent on me saying the next thing and seeing my face than I’m consumed with being an introvert.

    Do you relate to artists who started to accumulate that power and then decided they didn’t want the responsibility, like Lauryn Hill or Dave Chappelle?

    These are incredible artists. I think about it; then I try not to think about it.

    Dec 2, 2023
  2. EmilChristensen
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    Dec 30, 2015
    dope interview
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  3. tehparadox
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    Dec 30, 2015
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