Almost two years ago, the hip-hop community was stunned when Kendrick Lamar was shut out from seven Grammy categories, especially when his highly praised major label debut Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City lost for best rap album to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis‘ The Heist. (The Seattle rapper also picked up two more trophies in rap categories and later shared an Instagram post with a screenshot of a text he sent Lamar that read, “It’s weird and sucks that I robbed you.”)
Speed up to 2016 and Lamar is flourishing with 11 Grammy nominations for his sophomore set To Pimp a Butterfly. In his latest cover story for Billboard, the West Coast rhymer reflected on his past snub from the Recording Academy.
“[The Grammy defeats] would have been upsetting to me if I’d known that was my best work, if I had nothing new to offer,” he tells Billboard. “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City is great work, but it’s not my best work. To Pimp a Butterfly is great. I’m talking about the connection the record made. Good Kid, M.A.A.D City made a connection. But To Pimp a Butterfly made a bigger connection.”
While both albums would make any rising MC humblebrag (both albums earned Lamar consecutive No. 1 spots on the Billboard 200), TPAB delivered the unofficial rallying cry for protestors and the Black Lives Matter movement with “Alright.” Even his collaborator Thundercat vouched for the Sounwave and Pharrell-produced power anthem, noting that its impact extends beyond color.
“It’s not just a black thing,” Thundercat told Billboard. “It’s everybody’s struggle he’s presenting. What Kendrick is saying on a song like ‘Alright’ — people need to hear that message. I was in Paris during the [Nov. 13, 2015, terror] attacks. I feel like this album has been the soundtrack to every last thing that has been happening in this world.”
Expect Lamar o fist-pump with deep cuts from Butterfly when he hits the stage for the 58th Annual Grammy Awards, airing Monday, Feb. 15, at 8 p.m. ET on CBS. And read his full Billboard cover story here.