Inside Kendrick Lamar's Tupac Tribute 'Mortal Man': 'I Think They Would Have Been Good Friends'

Ramona Rosales
Kendrick Lamar photographed on Dec. 3, 2014 at Smashbox Studios in Culver City, Ca.

For all the anticipation, speculation and rumor-mongering that went on in the months leading up to the release of Kendrick Lamar's long-awaited To Pimp a Butterfly album, it's safe to say that few expected the album's dreamy, jazzy closing track, "Mortal Man," to include a sort of posthumous conversation between Lamar and Tupac Shakur. The "interview" between Lamar and Shakur, taken from a two-decade old audio Q&A with the late rapper, focuses on ideas of legacy, how to handle success, and the current generation of hip-hop, incorporating a two-decade old interview with the late rapper.

"It was Kendrick's idea," says Tom Whalley, head of Loma Vista Records, who signed Tupac to Interscope in 1991 and is working on the rapper's estate in partnership with Jampol Artist Management. "I thought it was a brilliant idea, and they sent me portions of what he was thinking of doing creatively around it, and I supported it. I knew Kendrick was a fan and influenced by Tupac, and I always do what I think Tupac would do."

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Indeed, Lamar took to Twitter on Sunday (Mar. 15) -- for just the third time this year, at that point -- to note that the previous day was a "special day": the 20th anniversary of the release of Shakur's Me Against the World.
"I think if Tupac was here, he would have tremendous respect for Kendrick Lamar's work," Whalley continues. "I think they would have ended up being not only artists who are respectful of each other -- I think they would have been good friends."
While one might expect the estate to be hands-on with such a project, Whalley says, "I didn't really hear the final results until yesterday [Mar. 17]. I thought it was amazing, just a great piece of work." 

To Pimp A Butterfly is expected to become Lamar's first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart next week. His 2012 debut, good kid, m.A.A.d city, debuted and peaked at No. 2 on the chart, selling 241,000 copies in its first week, according to Nielsen Music.


With reporting by Steve Baltin.