Kendrick Lamar Reflects on Past Grammy Losses While Looking Forward to Domination (Video)
Monday, February 15 may promise to be an indispensably important night for Hip-Hop. With 11 nominations, Kendrick Lamar is poised to be this year’s biggest winner, only two years after losing to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis for Best Hip-Hop Album of the Year and Best New Artist. This time around, however, Lamar is the artist behind what is arguably one of the most influential albums of 2015. To Pimp a Butterfly not only performed exceedingly well in a commercial sense, but songs like “Alright” transcended sales and became a rallying cry for a generation, and his ever-evolving bravery in his music videos, performances, and interviews make Kendrick Lamar more than just the year’s most important rapper. He has become one of the most important voices. And while TPAB continues to be found at the tips of our collective tongues, the Compton, California native is already eyeing the future. Not just February 15, but his next album.
In a cover story for Billboard magazine, Lamar gets frank about his past Grammy “upset,” arguing that it could have been a lot worse. Being defeated at the 2014 ceremony “would have been upsetting to me if I’d known that was my best work, if I had nothing new to offer.” In what is perhaps a sign from his own words that this year will be different, he tells Billboard‘s Jody Rose “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.” Though not going as far as calling TPAB his best, it’s clear Lamar’s resolve is more targeted on making history. “It’s bigger than me. When we think about the Grammys, only Lauryn Hill and Outkast have won Album of the Year. This would be big for Hip-Hop culture at large.” He’s not entirely modest, however (and justifiably so). “I want to win them all,” he tells Rosen.
In reflecting on his influence in relation to a larger generation of Hip-Hop artists, Lamar acknowledges that even he needs help – as do his peers. “When everybody looks at our generation of kids, they always call us the misfits – you know, like we just don’t give a damn.” But artists like Joey Bada$$, Chance the Rapper, and Isaiah Rashad “show that we do have some sense. Our generation just needs the proper people to tell us about our problems, about our wrongs and our rights.” Whether or not answering such a need will be a focus on future releases remains unclear, but Lamar admits that he’s already got plans brewing for his next album. “As far as content, what I want to get across, I have an idea. But even that’s still premature. Once I get back in that studio, things evolve into other things.” But one thing is certain – whatever central focus a new Kendrick Lamar album takes on, it will be imbued with his deep sense of responsibility to his people, as were many of the tracks on To Pimp a Butterfly. “I’ve felt that pressure in Compton, looking at the responsibility I have over these kids,” he says. “The world started turning into a place where — where so many were getting no justice. You got to step up to the plate. ‘Mortal Man’ is not me saying, ‘I can be your hero.’ ‘Mortal Man’ is questioning: ‘Do you really believe in me to do this?'”
While the Grammys are only one way to measure success, it seems that all signs point to yes. We really do believe.