Kendrick Lamar Discusses What Makes A Wack MC & Why No GOAT Uses Writers
Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. reached the top of the charts for a second time in the last month. The April release from the TDE/Aftermath Entertainment artist has set a new benchmark for a decorated 2010s Hip-Hop career. Speaking with Rolling Stone in Georgia, K-Dot touched upon the album, his family dynamic, and a host of other issues.
Journalist Brian Hiatt inquired about “LOVE.” The DAMN. inclusion represents a poppier sound for the Rap purist, and the interviewer asked his subject how he knows if he’s crossed a line. “There’s ear candy, and then there’s corny. You have to have an incredible ear to recognize it and an incredible team to recognize it, to know the differences,” says the 30-year-old. “It takes years of experience. Years of making wack sh*t [laughing], and knowing what works for you, and also knowing when to step out of your box and try things that feel good and still can remain you.” Elsewhere in the interview, Kendrick admits that he was unaware Taylor Swift was dissing Katy Perry on “Bad Blood,” another Pop-facing selection from his discography. “That’s far beyond my concern. I have to stay away from that, for sure. That’s some real beef,” joked the artist who has also made some controversial chides to peers on collaborations.
As Kendrick appeared to admit he’d made some “wack sh*t” in the past, earlier in the conversation, Hiatt asks Lamar for his definition of a “wack artist.” He replied, “I love that question. How would I define a wack artist? A wack artist uses other people’s music for their approval. We’re talking about someone that is scared to make their own voice, chases somebody else’s success and their thing, but runs away from their own thing. That’s what keeps the game watered-down. Everybody’s not going to be able to be a Kendrick Lamar. I’m not telling you to rap like me. Be you. Simple as that. I watch a lot of good artists go down like that because you’re so focused on what numbers this guy has done, and it dampers your own creativity. Which ultimately dampers the listener, because at the end of the day, it’s not for us,” he touts. “It’s for the person driving to their 9-to-5 that don’t feel like they wanna go to work that morning.” Elsewhere in the interview, Kendrick agrees that on his first circulated mixtape, he frequently fancied a JAY-Z style. “That was my guy. Still is. I’m still a fan. That was just a page I took out of his book, to be able to carry a lyric through conversation and make it feel like I’m sitting right here talking to you.” The MC says that when he officially changed his name from “K-Dot” to “Kendrick Lamar,” he stepped into his own original style, given his open identity.
As a follow-up to the “wack” definition, Kendrick is asked about ghostwriters. On 2015’s “King Kunta” he rapped, “I can dig rappin’, but a rapper with a ghost writer? / What the f*ck happened? / I swore I wouldn’t tell, but most of y’all sharing bars / Like you got the bottom bunk in a two-man cell.” That same year, Meek Mill attempted to out Drake for using rapper Quentin Miller to write some of his acclaimed material. Two years later, Lamar fields the query as to whether hired pens can be condoned. “It depends on what arena you’re putting yourself in. I called myself the best rapper. I cannot call myself the best rapper if I have a ghostwriter. If you’re saying you’re a different type of artist and you don’t really care about the art form of being the best rapper, then so be it. Make great music. But the title, it won’t be there.”
On the Hip-Hop front, Kendrick says upon hearing Mike WiLL Made It’s beat for single “HUMBLE.,” he likened it to Marley Marl’s 1988 Juice Crew classic. “All I could think of was ‘The Symphony’ and the earliest moments of Hip-Hop, where it’s complex simplicity, but it’s also somebody making moves. That beat feels like my generation, right now. The first thing that came to my head was, ‘Be humble.'”
Elsewhere in the extensive Rolling Stone interview, Kendrick Lamar also details tracks of him singing, Andre 3000’s influence, and visiting Nelson Mandela’s cell in South Africa.
#bonusbeat: Early in his career, Kendrick Lamar spoke with Ambrosia For Heads about where his passion for Hip-Hop began.