There are very few hip-hop artists that are so powerful and influential that they can change and shape culture on a whim. Kendrick Lamar is one such artist. If you prescribe to the theology of waves, then he could be considered the wind that causes the waves. From the release of his breakout project, Section.80, there was just something about this kid that made him stand apart from the rest. As a result, we included him in our epic 2011 XXL Freshman class and he’s continued to show and prove.
His official debut album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, more than lived up to the hype that was collectively built, and his sophomore LP, To Pimp a Butterfly and new project, untitled unmastered., have continued to solidify his immense legacy; and he’s just getting started.
Watching K. Dot’s growth in the industry has been fascinating. He’s a brilliant soul who commands attention every time he drops an album (which more times than not is described as a classic upon release). Plus, he maintains a humble demeanor that makes him both likeable and relatable. The fact that he sticks with his day one crew TDE and is currently in a committed relationship with his high school sweetheart also speaks volumes about how grounded he is in the ever-changing music industry. From plans to open up community centers in his hometown of Compton to receiving the key to the city, he’s found balance in his life by using his fame to not only bring attention to social issues that plague his culture, but the community that made him the man he is today.
His music is what keeps his name in the hip-hop conversation and beyond. The MC’s more recent tracks can be described as a blend of brutal honesty and funky West Coast vibes — the message goes deep. Kendrick has managed to be as commercially successful and culturally significant as many of his peers and idols without following any traditional formulas of radio success. It’s impossible to argue that he isn’t one of the best rappers in the game today – possibly ever.
When it comes time to talk about his music and his personal life, Kendrick is incredibly articulate and open. We’ve compiled a list of 20 of his best interview quotes over the course of his career. Pimp, pimp, hooray!
“I think one of my biggest battles within myself is embracing leadership. You always grow up and you hate the term ‘role model.’ You would say, ‘I don’t wanna be a role model. I don’t want none of that.’ But in actuality, you are the biggest role model. It’s impossible to fight the title of role model. Especially when the type of music I make is so personal. People feel like they can relate to me or that they are me. They feel like they know my whole life story even though we from different worlds. So when I go out and meet them in public, I don’t get a response like, ‘Kendrick, will you sign this real quick?’ Or, ‘I wanna just take this picture with you.’ No, they want to have full conversations. I find out that they live their lives by my music and that right there is something.”
Dealing With Insecurities
“You can have the platinum album, but when you still feel like you haven’t quite found your place in the world — it kind of gives a crazy offset. When you go inside these places, no matter how much money you have, no matter how much success, when you still feel like you’re not comfortable, where’s the feeling in that?“
Influencing the Community
“You grow up inside these neighborhoods and these communities, and you have friends, friends that you love, friends that you grew up with since elementary. And you have their trust, and you have their loyalty. So it brings influence. So no matter how much of a leader I thought I was, I was always under the influence, period. Most of the times, when they were involved in these acts of destruction, I was right there.”
Keeping Creativity Going
“I gotta stay creative, I gotta stay writing — I’m usually writing every day. I can’t miss a day without writing, whether it’s a line, a verse, or an idea. I always have to have that creative flow going.”
Guiding the Movement
“We part of the world. We part of the movement. So I think any awards, including the Grammys, should always push for more hip-hop because it’s music as a whole, it’s not just splitting different regions. Everything moves as far as sound and vibrations, and that’s how it goes. And we are a part of that.”
“I think one of my biggest assets is not knowing how famous I am. Or even excluding the word, I hate the word ‘famous.’ I’m aware of it. I know people treat me different because of it. And the more I am aware of that and play into it, the more I become detached from the real world. So it’s really about balance. The more somebody opens the door for me and I walk through without acknowledging that they opened the door for me, the more I become separate from others.”
Relating to the People
“At the end of the day, we all human. And that’s what people — I think that’s why they fuck with me the most. Because I’ve put that in my music, that I’m just a human being like everyone else, trying to figure [things] out.”
Steering Clear of Being Redundant
“Every little bit of music that I have learned to live with and love from the day I was born. My father’s, influences from oldies to gangsta rap. That was it for me. And not being in fear to show these influences. A lot of artists get to a point where we like to stay redundant; we comprise what we really want to do and I said I wasn’t gon’ do that on this album.”
Experiencing Rage Firsthand
“The past few years or so have been very politically charged and controversial. From Trayvon Martin, to Eric Garner to Michael Brown and issues of police brutality and racism and for so many other reasons. All of it has really struck a nerve with me because when you experience things like that personally and you know the type of hardships and pain that it brings first-hand, it builds a certain rage in you. It brings back memories of when I’m 16 and the police come kicking the door in. They don’t care that I’m a little boy and they stumped me in my back two times and they dragged me out the house and have us all handcuffed. It brings back those memories. Memories of losing loved ones. It brings back some of the most painful memories and deepest thoughts of real life situations that I didn’t even want to address on good kid. Or wasn’t ready to. Rage is the perfect word for it.
And I express my rage through my music. I can’t bottle it in because me bottling it in is going to make me go out there and get pulled over and I have this rage and this cop don’t know that and the next thing you know, well, I never know what’s going to happen because I don’t know how to control my own emotions so what I do is I express them by jotting them down and I put it through my music and I can’t stop. That’s the best way for me to deal.”
Figuring Out an Identity
“It’s really about me trying to balance these worlds — where I used to be and where I am today — from all different angles. This [To Pimp a Butterfly] album was therapy for me. I was looking at myself in the mirror and trying to figure out who I really am.”
Fabricating a Reality Won’t Happen
“It’s a hundred percent real. I don’t even think I can make music where it’s fabricating a story that’s not mine. From Compton I could’ve easily came out and said, ‘I did this, I did that, I killed a whole bunch of niggas…’ Just giving out fact where I’m from. That ain’t me. I’d rather talk about my reality. I’d rather talk about something more deep than that.”
“It’s definitely a gift and a curse when you make music as personal as I make it. Of course you get the kids out there that say that they relate to you and this song saved their lives, and you helped them with their assignment for this and that. And then at the same time, your privacy is not respected.”
Feeling No Pressure
“What’s crazy to me is that I feel the same energy now that I felt before my first album. I know there’s lot of pressure for me on this new album but it don’t necessarily scare me. It’s almost confirmation, like, go in there and challenge yourself just the same way you challenged yourself the first time.”
Living With Fame
“The positive outweighs the negative, I can tell you that.I can take care of my family. I get to socialise with people outside of what I know and meet different cultures. Growing up in an urban community, you don’t give a fuck. That’s just how the mentality is. But you gotta learn to respect different types of people. Andthat was a lesson to me, I had to get out of my own nutshell.”
Working Up to Legendary Status
“I was a kid, 4 [or] 3 years old, when Snoop hit. And seeing their growth and how they developed as a team and blossomed into somebody you can call a legend — that’s something that I want. I don’t want the ‘pop-over-night’ with the big hit record, because you’re not gonna catch that break every time.
Cutting Off an Idol’s Head
“You can’t really get into the studio with Jay Z or Eminem and look at them like ‘they’re my big homies’; you’ve got to go in there trying to cut their head off. Period.“
Refusing to Run From the Kids
“The impact it [fashion] has is letting the world know, everything starts homegrown, you know? No matter how far or how high it gets, you always have to come back to the soil, you always have to come back to the streets. You always got to look at what the next 13-year-old, same person I was, is wearing because these are the people who make the culture. We can’t run from the kids, period.“
Helping Parents Is a Blessing
“I always thought money was something just to make me happy. But I’ve learned that I feel better being able to help my folks, ’cause we never had nothing. So just to see them excited about my career is more of a blessing than me actually having it for myself.“
Moving Away From the Microwave
“I want to continue to have something that’s not microwavable in a world today where our attention span is pretty much lost. We need something that we can hold on to, so in doing that, I’m [going to] continue to make the music I want to make and say the things I want to say, whether you agree with it or not.“
Building a Lasting Legacy
“When my time has come on earth, I want it to live longer than me, for the grandkids and their kids.”