Kendrick Lamar is on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine emblazoned with the headline “The Greatest Rapper Alive.”
While that may be up for debate (not really though) King Kendrick is easily the most thoughtful prominent artist of our generation.
In an interview that spanned from questions about Donald Trump, ghostwriters, ‘wack’ artists, Kendrick’s recent trip to Africa, beef between Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, and optimism about the future, Lamar spoke eloquently about the state of hip-hop and America.
Kendrick explained why he’s been mostly quiet on the subject of Donald Turmp:
“I mean, it’s like beating a dead horse. We already know what it is. Are we gonna keep talking about it or are we gonna take action? You just get to a point where you’re tired of talking about it. It weighs you down and it drains your energy when you’re speaking about something or someone that’s completely ridiculous. So, on and off the album, I took it upon myself to take action in my own community… Speak on self; reflection of self first. That’s where the initial change will start from.”
With the constant feed of ridiculous and unprecedented news out of the White House it often does feel like ‘beating a dead horse’ and it’s easy to get lost in all of the noise. But Kendrick’s assertion that action is the best form of protest is the damn truth.
On his song “ELEMENT” Lamar rapped “it’s a difference between black artists and wack artists” and Rolling Stone asked him to define what being a wack artist meant to Kung Fu Kenny:
“I love that question… A wack artist uses other people’s music for their approval. We’re talking about someone that is scared to make their own voice, chases somebody else’s success and their thing, but runs away from their own thing. That’s what keeps the game watered-down. Everybody’s not going to be able to be a Kendrick Lamar. I’m not telling you to rap like me. Be you. Simple as that.”
There’s definitely a lot of mimicry in hip-hop and music in general. Kendrick’s individuality is what makes him great and his call to ‘be you’ is advice any young artist should take to heart.
When asked about ghostwriting and rap, Kendrick offered that anyone can use a ghostwriter, but don’t claim you’re a rapper if you have someone writing your bars:
“It depends on what arena you’re putting yourself in. I called myself the best rapper. I cannot call myself the best rapper if I have a ghostwriter. If you’re saying you’re a different type of artist and you don’t really care about the art form of being the best rapper, then so be it. Make great music. But the title, it won’t be there.”
Kendrick also spoke about his recent trip to Africa and the spiritual effect it had on him, giving him a sense of belonging:
“It just felt like a place where I belonged. It was as simple as that. You hear about the land and you hear untold truths about it, and now you’re old enough to witness it yourself. It just gave me a whole other perspective on where I’m from… It just followed me back to the studio. It felt weird when we had to leave and get back on that flight. We all said the same thing, like, ‘Damn, we gonna go back to [Compton]. This is home, for real.'”
That’s some powerful shit.
Throughout his catalog, Kendrick transitions from rapping to melodic singing, when asked who was the first artist that put him on to the idea that rappers could sing, Lamar said it was none other than 3 Stacks:
“For my generation, it would definitely have to be André 3000. He was the first guy. We’d come home from school and he’d be rapping on TV one day, then you came home a week later and he has a song called ‘Prototype,’ which just blows our mind away, you dig what I’m sayin’?”
It’s dope to see an artist that you grew up on go on to influence an entire generation of new musicians and that’s now André’s place in the game. Outkast really laid the groundwork for artists in hip-hop and R&B to think way outside the box with their art, music wouldn’t be the same without them.
Finally, they asked Kendrick whether he was optimistic or pessimistic about the future. The Compton kid answered that he had to be an optimist because of where he comes from and where he is now:
“I’m mothafuckin’ optimistic for sure. I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t! Come on, man, this shit don’t happen to everybody. Almost all of my best friends are in prison. Forty years plus. Every show, they wanna see pictures. They tell me, ‘You gotta be optimistic as fuck to be where you at. We didn’t have that. The glass was always halfway empty.’ And it’s not just being optimistic. It’s really about being responsible. You can talk about dreams all day and ‘what I want,’ but you gotta put an action behind it.”
Words of wisdom to anyone in these trifling ass times.
Kendrick Lamar is a damn gift to music.