The 5 Best Highlights from Kendrick Lamar's New i-D Interview
Kendrick Lamar does not make white noise. The elusive MC emerges from the confines of the studio and his own mind every couple years to present a new album, a sprawling, genre-bending masterwork that sells millions of copies and earns the lavish praise of fans and critics alike.
This year it was DAMN., which exploded onto the Billboard 200 chart with 603,000 equivalent albums sold in its first week -- the best sales week of 2017, and Lamar’s third consecutive chart-topper -- and spawned the Billboard Hot 100-topping single, “HUMBLE.”
With such jaw-dropping figures -- and heavy consideration for greatest rapper alive -- Lamar doesn’t much need to talk to the press. But he recently granted an interview to esteemed music journalist and TV host Touré for i-D, where he talked about his relationship with Barack Obama, his bewilderment over Donald Trump's presidency, his greatest verses to date, and his desire to give back to a community that raised him.
Here are five highlights from Lamar’s interview.
The MC didn’t just admire Obama; they were friends
The former president booked Lamar to headline his Fourth of July BBQ, and shouted out “How Much a Dollar Cost” as his favorite song of 2015, but he also invited the rapper to the White House and reflected on their similar life paths. “The craziest thing he said was, 'Wow, how did we both get here?' Blew my mind away,” Lamar recalls. “I mean, it's just a surreal moment when you have two black individuals, knowledgeable individuals, but who also come from these backgrounds where they say we'll never touch ground inside these floors."
Lamar is baffled, but inspired, by Trump’s presidency
”The key differences [between Obama and Trump] are morals, dignity, principles, common sense," says Lamar, who calls the difference in his reception by the White House “a complete mindfuck.” Still, he admits Trump has inspired him to work more furiously than ever: "It's just building up the fire in me. It builds the fire for me to keep pushing as hard as I want to push."
He stays completely sober when he makes music
"I want to make the music in the most sober mind as possible -- that way I know it's me making it, not just the liquor!" Lamar says. It should come as no surprise for a man whose favorite word, behind “perspective,” is “discipline.” "There are so many vices in the world, especially being in the entertainment business,” he adds. “But how much discipline do you have when the camera's off, when the light's off? That inspires me. How to restrain that. And that shows who you really are. To control yourself, that is the ultimate power."
He believes DAMN. features his best lyrics to date
Lamar cites the starkly confessional “FEAR.” as his greatest lyrical accomplishment. ”It's completely honest," he says. "The first verse is everything that I feared from the time that I was seven years old. The second verse I was 17, in the third it's everything I feared when I was 27. These verses are completely honest."
Lamar is actively using his status to give back to his community
Growing up on the gang-ravaged streets of Compton’s Rosecrans Avenue, Lamar turned to music as a coping mechanism and way to escape that life. Now, he wants to help his peers start “earning a living.” "You put YMCAs inside your community and you give a job to these cats that can't be hired anywhere else,” he says. “You make the opportunities, and that's what I'm doing personally. Because once I put the power in their hands, they can put it in the next.”
Lamar also talks about the responsibility that comes with his music being embraced by a social movement. “I’m still a human being, I'm still a person, I still have family, I still have my own personal problems. But I have to give to the world. I think that's my responsibility, [to learn] from my mistakes [and to spread] the knowledge that I have, the wisdom that I have. It's not just a job or entertainment for me, this is what I have to offer to the world."