On the first of October I was kicking back at the Batkave, listening to some tunes contemplating the Das Racist show going down that evening at the Comet. Out of no where I got a call from an unknown number. The conversation went something like this.
Caller: "You wanna talk to Kendrick Lamar"
Me: "................... Yes"
Details were flushed out and what went from being a phone conversation became an in person interview prior to his show at Sodo opening for Tech N9ne. Random pairing, you are telling me.
If you didn't read the review of O(verly) D(edicated) at least get the tape cause this is one of the best albums of the year and deserves your ears.
Kendrick Lamar is an intelligent cat who was personable and very honest. He reps his home hard and I learned his CPT heritage has gotten him on the road in the past with The Game - even visiting our city before in 2008. Certainly not your average twenty three year old rapper. Read up.
Introduce yourself, who is Kendrick Lamar?
Kendrick Lamar is Compton, California. Kendrick Lamar the oldest of four. Both parents, from Chicago, came to Compton in ‘84 had me in ‘87. I like to say Compton a lot because that’s what I represent, I represent everything that it holds. You listen to my music it represents a kid that’s trying his best to duck the influences of the city. That represents everyone that’s living in the city. The influence can be police, peer pressure, gangs, drugs, whatever. That’s me.
You say on one song “Half of yall don’t even know Kendrick” - what should people know?
I think one of the misconceptions is that I’m this overall angel at heart. I tell my stuff from the inside looking around rather than the outside looking in. So when I talk about all these ills and these situations, I’m not knocking it or saying it’s bad because I go through the same shit that everybody else go through. I think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions right now, they put me around this whole conscious thing, but I’m just like every other person that’s living in the city. I’ve been through some shit, negative situations where it’s not cool to glorify the shit. I just gotta show people I’m more like them.
Where did you go to high school?
Centennial High, it was cool too.
When did you start rapping?
I started rapping in 8th grade, matter fact 7th grade I was 13. I got inspired by the DMX album because Pac had died, I felt like there was a void missing in hiphop, DMX came with that same type of motherfucking energy and I just got inspired and started writing. Then I went back and studied all the greats, Pac, Biggie, Nas, Big Daddy Kane, everything, just perfected my craft.
That was a lot of East coast names for a West coast head...
Yeah. I grew up on the West coast, I know it. Truthfully I didn’t like Biggie until after he died. I think everybody can say that but they just too scared to say that shit. I didn't give a fuck I was a downright Tupac fan, fuck everything, Bad Boy killa all that shit. Yeah that was me. I was nine years old, I didn’t give a fuck ignorance was a bliss to me. Shit I seen Tupac in person, in Compton, on Rosecrans. You couldn’t tell me shit. I didn’t give a fuck if Biggie new how to rap good. It was all about Tupac. That was just me being a child not knowing shit. After he died, then i started rapping, then I started realizing this is the shit I like to rap about, same shit Biggie, Jay-Z is kicking. Then I went back, got out of my naive ways, studied that shit. Shout out Biggie rest in peace, Pac all legends.
Your parents grew up in Chicago?
Yeah born and raised.
Did you hear a lot of music from Chicago growing up then?
A lot of oldies, just a lot of oldies. My parents, it’s like... The best way to describe my upbringing is, you ever seen Menace to Society?
Remember when Cain is a kid? They had parties every motherfucking Friday. Drunk, smoking, I got tons of motherfucking cousins and older uncles. There was always music in the house, everyday. They played rap, R&B, oldies, so I grew up on a variety of shit which basically is musical influence for me because that’s how I pick my music as far as instrumentals and beats, a lot soul samples, snare drums. It all comes from that.
Who are some of the producers on OD?
I got mostly in house. Soundwave, King Blue, TaeBeast, Willie B. I got a major producer on there named Wyldfire - he produced the Nas and Jay-Z “Black Republican” track. That’s about it right there.
When you say in house, what is that? Is it your company?
Top Dawg Entertainment. It’s the company I signed with at 16 or 17. The CEO is a dude, Top Dawg himself, I put out a local mixtape when I first jumped in the booth at 16 and I spread it locally. It caught the ear of him and he’s believed since and we moving on.
So OD came out for free, then was gone and only on iTunes. What’s the situation with it?
It’s still floating around there for free. I was batteling my company on putting it out for free from the jump. I felt like everybody wasn’t a believer in Kendrick Lamar yet. The Kendrick Lamar EP did great, better than what I thought it would do but i felt like I still need to put out this free music, I ain’t touched everybody yet. They was like nah. It’s a good thing my people believe in me, think I can actually sell. But I was like let’s put it out for free. So we came to a compromise, we put it out on iTunes, put it out for free for a few days and just let it float and see how many people pick it up and make their own links. At the end of the day it turned out a good thing, it still got out to the people that need to hear it, you can search for it if you really want it, and for the people that bought it, it’s letting me know people still buy music and are looking for it.
Who would you like to work with?
People ask me this all the time... It’s cliche to say like Jay-Z, Nas, Andre3000.
Are there some young cats coming up you are into?
I like a lot of neo soul stuff. India.Aire, Bilal, Floetry. That’s the people I want to work with. I think they so musically inclined that they will take me to that next level that I haven’t been. Even though they doing a whole other genre of music I feel they can open up another motherfucking part of my brain where it’ll make me rap better, or make me put together my music as a whole on another level.
What’s the deal with the Black Hippie project?
Ah the Black Hippies, you know what that whole project and that whole idea was just some shit we were sprinkling out and it just caught motherfucking fire as soon as we threw out a couple tracks. We are everywhere with it right now. We working on a mixtape, album shit. We got a whole lot of motherfucking music in the chamber. We can throw shit out anytime but we just want it to be right and get all the artist projects out and let everybody see each individual artist as their own entity so they will know where we come from. Then see it as a group, Ok here is how it all meshes together.
How did y’all come together?
You know we just fell out the motherfucking sky. Schoolboy Q is from LA, Rock from Watts, Ab-Soul from Carson, I’m from Compton, you know those are all local motherfucking cities. We all around the same age group, high schools ain’t but 10, 5 minutes from each other - LA is a small as a motherfucker man. Everybody know each other. So I fall through the Top Dawg studio one day and see Jay Rock, seen him come through Centennial with his gang, his hood or for a female. Ab-Soul, same with him, knew him through a mutual friend, we just all came together at the end of the day.
What’s next after the tour?
Oh yeah I got the album done. I’m just gonna push this motherfucking OD until the wheels fall off and then hit em across the head with the album shit.
What’s the story with the video you dropped today?
You caught that? That’s crazy, we were just talking about that. You heard the “Heaven & Hell” record? I wanted to go totally left field. The “Heaven & Hell” record is basically a description on heaven and hell, on how I think heaven look from an imaginary perspective and hell being the today world we live in today. So the guy cruising from the first point of view in the car is basically saying through all the red lights in life he never stops. That can be one perception. The second one could be everything that’s going on around him he’s still speeding through. That can be the hell perception. It could be all types of violence, type of shooting, extortion, he’s still getting through to do whatever he has to go do. And then at the end of the video he meets a significant other, somebody that he loves and supports him. The whole process of me making the “Hevean & Hell” record I want people to think, the ultimate high is god. But on a spiritual level sometimes people can’t meet them standards, pray and actually believe he is real. So you need somebody in actual life, in physical form to keep your serenity inside of you. So that’s where you see the lady at the end. The lady can be your brother, your sister, or your pops. You always need somebody at the end of the day to keep you sane in this motherfucking world. That’s actually a piece from 1975 and probably the world is just now seeing that shit, I felt it went right with the music.
You got any last words?
Oh shit go cop that Kendrick Lamar OD, that’s all it’s about right now. Just spreading the word about good motherfucking music. Got G Malone in here. He got this Drive By Music. It’s all motherfucking West coast shit, we just trying to bring it back to where it’s suppose to be, the respect we need.
Thanks to Alex for hitting me up while in town and making this happen!