iHipHop Exclusive Interview: Kendrick Lamar On J. Cole, Dr. Dre, Dash Snow & How “My Whole Story Is About A Good Kid In A Bad City Trying To Do His Best To Avoid The Influences”
Tuesday, February 8th, 2011 at 1:36 pm
I linked up with Kendrick last week for some real talk. I’ll let his words do the talking.
iHipHop: How did the project with J. Cole come to be?
Kendrick Lamar: We came up with the project a few months back just from vibing in the studio. In the first session we knocked out like 3 or 4 songs. It came out so dope we decided to prolong it and make it a full length project. The project is going to be more soulful. Nothing different then what we usually do. Something that people can relate to and feel. Haven’t come out with a title just of yet, but it’s looking like it’s about to be something wonderful. We definitely don’t know if we will put it out on itunes or make it a free project, it depends on how things come along.
iHH: The determining factor on weather the project is released commercially probably depends on where you end up, so do you think you will end up on a Major label soon?
KL: It’s still in the air. We have a lot of situations on the table. Right now we are keeping it independent, Top Dawg Entertainment.
iHH: Who and what is Black Hippy/Top Dawg Entertainment?
KL: Black Hippy consist of Top Dawg’s four main artists, me, Jay Rock, Schoolboy Q & Ab-Soul. It’s a group we have been working on for years now. We decided to call it Black Hippy because it represents unruly music. Music that has no restraints on what we can do. We’re not being confined to what the radio is telling us or the industry is telling us. We’re doing what we feel, and that’s how it’s coming out. It represents love, life, happiness, hate, evil, whatever life creates. That’s what the color black represents to us, everything.
iHH: You recently did a dope joint with Terrace Martin & CiHi Da Prynce entitled “Thirsty”. Is there an experience that sticks out of someone acting particularly Thirsty?
KL: There’s too many. An industry one is a label exec trying his best to mold me into a pop star. A hiphop artist to a pop star? Just to make his boss happy inside the label. I think that’s thirsty in itself. Just because you’re money hungry, you’re thirsty for the money. Really you are trying to take a self made person, and define them as something else, which is not who they are. I think that’s one of the most thirsty things I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot.
iHH: I know you have been working with Dr. Dre, to be perfectly honest, I’m more interested in hearing a new Kendrick Lamar song as opposed to a new Dr. Dre song. How do you react to a statement like that?
KL: That’s crazy. I’ve actually heard that before. It’s just the time frame of the music. Of course Dr. Dre is a legend. I give him the utmost respect. I gave him the utmost respect early on in my career, even now after he recognized my music. So shout out to Dre. It has to do with what people are seeing now. I’m just putting out more music. I’m more in their ear. So people are more receptive to it. It’s what’s in demand. People like myself, J. Cole…Big K.R.I.T. You know what I’m sayin, where Dre is locked in a dungeon trying to create this motherf*cking monster project. It’s almost like he’s going to latch on to what he hears now and wait. And then Dre will come with it.
iHH: I think the LA hip hop scene is the best in the country right now. It has traditionally been a very gang oriented scene. However right now some of the most popular artists such as yourself are not claiming colors. What do you think has led to this phenomena?
KL: I can speak on my behalf. I don’t claim colors just for the fact I’ve done seen it my whole life. I’ve seen the real side of it. I know the type of damage it does. You dig what I’m saying. When I’m 5 years old seeing a person get his whole back and head blown off in front of my apartment building. My cousins and uncles selling dope. Having shootouts, standing in my mommas house being Compton crips. You dig what I’m saying? And trafficking in and out of my mommas house, and being around it. Drinking smoking, so I know what type of drama that brings. Not only that, but I had an active father in my life, that I respected as a man first. And from his experiences trickling down to me on what to do and what not to do in the streets. So out of respect for him I chose not to get into that lifestyle, because I know the drama it brings. That would be disrespectful for me to have a father that gave me all this attention and all this affection and I still strayed away into some ignorant sh*t, you know? I wanna put that in my music 100%. A lot of motherf*ckers out here that be be repping that gang culture and be putting in they music that’s not really them. And I know it’s not really them , because I seen it. I been around and I know who is really really. And I think that’s some fraudulent shit. I’m not about to, just because I’m from Compton, I’m feena act like I portray a piru gang or a crip gang that’s not me. I know them. I’ve been in situations and got bumped my head a few times and I know really whats up. But that’s not something I wanna take to the next level because my city is f*cked up. It’s not nothing to be playing with. That’s not something I’m gunna play with, the gang culture. That’s real life in compton. There are hoods on every corner. I think that’s some bullshit for motherfuckers to be out here to be keeping on glorying the street cred when it’s not really real.
iHH: Do you find it frustrating when there are rappers who pay a “tax” and glorify a lifestyle they never actually lived?
KL: Ya I find it real frustrating sometimes. I understand it’s entertainment at the end of the day. But then I look at my uncle that was killed at Louie Burgers in Compton, I look at my cousin Lamont that was murdered. I look at my friends, I look at their friends that were murdered. It gets frustrating some times man, sometimes to see people glorifying this sh*t. Now that I’m up in age and I understand, and I been through the trials and tribulations of living in the city. It sickening sometimes. I chose not to do it in that way. I mean I bring to like and bring it to reality but I’m never putting on the scale where I’m actually glorifying it. When I put in my music I put it in my music reality that’s how we living, and maybe if I keep talking about it, it will come to the forefront and maybe people will start to knowing what they’re doing.
iHH: Plus you are a good enough artist that you don’t need the “gangster” crutch.
KL: Right. Exactly. That lifestyle it plays a big part. Lifestyle rappers, when they talk about gangs. They play a big part in my life, Probably 100% My whole story is about a good kid in a bad city trying to do his best to avoid the influences. The influence of gang violence or police brutality or a hood rat, a promiscuous women in the neighborhood trying to set you up. Or another neighborhood I’ve been through all that type of shit. That’s my whole story and I just want to take it to the next level and show another side of Compton…I mean LA In general.
I mean you kind of sum that struggle up with a particular verse on “Average Joe“.
“I was walking in front of some ten year old/ when an unidentified vehicle rolled up, and I was like hold up/ where you from ‘how bang’ where you stay? ‘west side’/ that’s a piru gang to be exact/ well aware they had blue across they hat/ dropped backpack and ran inside the culdesac/ shots rang out hoping to god I wasn’t wet/ cross to cross rose crans, / I ran inside of the yet/ chirped the homies on the hot 95/ said they already knew what happened to me to my side of garage/ never seen that many guns in my life/ I was paranoid like a fiend in the night/ But needed revenge/ grabbed the 9 ball opened up the door and got in/ somebody say fall back we gunna make these n*ggas suffer/ you my brother like a frat/ and that’s just a remind you/ thought about that so long I had failed my finals”
KL: It’s crazy to because that’s a true story. On campus in school I’m shy. Since kindergarten I’ve been rather a fairly good student, you know what I mean, weather its A’s B’s or C’s, but as soon as I go off campus I gotta go right back to the bullsh*t. And when I talk about my homeboy in the neighborhood. Ya they live a bad lifestyle, ya I had a father that straightened me the right way. But at the same time these are the people I grew up with. Since kindergarten, pre school on up to high school. So I can’t avoid them being my friends and them having influences on me. You know what I’m saying? So when I walk inside a neighborhood I feel comfortable in, and somebody rides through and get at me. They don’t give a f*ck if I bang or not. That’s LA. That’s Compton. They don’t care. They just know I’m in this neighborhood, and i’m walking towards this house on this block that they don’t like. So when they do something in retaliation to me, my friends that I grew up with. That got love for me and respect me as a man first, not being on no gang sh*t, just me being a leader and doing what I’m doing as far on my own to feet. They gunna have my back, they gunna ride for me. Just off the love, me growing up with them. Doing backflips in the middle of the street, stealing from stores and stuff. And it be on your conscious so much to be negative…It’s always on your conscious to be negative because it’s always around you. So when I say I feel like i’m about to go ride on the cats that just shot at me it’s real life. Because I feel that anger inside of me. I’m looking at myself like I’m a positive person, but people in these streets still wanna f*ck with me. So it only takes a split second to change my mind and do some evil sh*t. But the real love comes from the cat that was in the back that said ‘You know what keep doing you. Keep doing good in school, Keep playing basketball, Keep furthering your rap career. We got this. Fall back little n*gga.’ That’s real love when I look at it. Not the one that’s saying ‘Yo come on go do it, they done did this to you let’s go do it.‘”
KL: Exactly. I mean I walk through the neighborhood and OG’s say keep doing what you doing. Don’t do it like the other cats are doing. Portraying this lifestyle, and keeping this certain type energy going in the community. I like what you’re doing. Keep doing it. Keep putting the story out there, putting the reality out there. Don’t never glorify it, because we don’t like living this way.
iHH: Ya you kinda of nail that point in on “Ignorance is Bliss” with the line.
KL: “That’s exactly what that mean. What I just told you right now. That’s exactly what that mean. People try to put me in the box. Where it’s just a conscious state of rap, until I give them that side on “Ignorance Is Bliss” where an OG is talking to me, and he say ‘what you doing right now is 100% realer than saying you shot some dude on the block‘”
iHH: I thought it was crazy that you sampled Dash Snow considering your backgrounds, how did that come to be?
KL: We probably come from two different worlds. But it was just him being an artist. His creativity. My dude Dave told me about this dude Dash Snow. I took it up myself to go look him up and do my research on him. I couldn’t help but see the originality he had for the work he did. The photos he shot. It was rebel. It was almost like a rebel feeling. And that’s the type of feeling I got living in Compton and I couldn’t help but relate. Where I could say f*ck everything else that is going on. I feena do what I gotta do.