Kendrick Lamar’s Complex Cover Story Breaks Down What A Guest Verse Will Cost Ya

To coincide with their new relaunch, shared its August/September cover story, with Kendrick Lamar. The event follows a Monday morning that perhaps featured some GQ competition with a Kanye West cover story. Both efforts, with arguably two of the current Kings in Hip-Hop (in very different ways, with differing styles and approaches and praise-points), feature up close and personal accounts of where the two men are now.


Complex’s Insanul “Inclin” Ahmed traveled to Top Dawg Entertainment’s studios to witness Kendrick crafting his sophomore major label album. With quotes and commentary from Nas, TDE President Punch, and K-Dot’s manager Dave Free, the story focuses strongly on the pressures of following up good kid, m.a.a.d. city. Along the way, Lamar addresses “Control” (claiming that Jay Z and The Notorious B.I.G. will forever be “Kings Of New York”), and admits that he wishes Macklemore would not have posted his post-Grammy text on Instagram for all the world to see (“He probably didn’t need to Instagram the text. But what’s done is done.”).

Maybe more interesting to some Heads, the story touches on the going rate for a Kendrick Lamar guest verse, which seems to have some wriggle room. Also, for folks wondering why a far more accessible pre-2011 Lamar ain’t chirpin’ back, the story shares that the TDE/Aftermath superstar turns his phone off for months at a time, with other boundaries in his life preventing distraction or invasion. Heavy on facts and details, the story also confirms that Kendrick Lamar is spending a lot of time in the studio with Dr. Dre for his G.K.M.C. follow-up, despite Dre’s limited hand in the benchmark 2012 release.

While Complex did not gain access to one of those Compton battery sessions, the story notably follows Kendrick’s full-on creative process in making a verse for Jay Rock’s own forthcoming sophomore LP. If you’re impressed/encouraged by Kanye West reportedly recording most of Yeezus‘ vocals in two hours before a flight (so says Rick Rubin to the frustration of ‘Ye), you’ll probably find K-Dot’s recording habits to be daunting, and something only for the Overly Dedicated.

If one quote from Complex‘s story is to sum up the mind-state of a musical mad-man, this may be best: “If I keep focusing on, ‘I need to make something better than good kid [m.a.a.d city],’ it’s going to be just that. That’s not challenging yourself. I don’t want to become that person reflecting on what has been done. What I’m doing now is the question. I’m only as good as my last word, my last hook, my last bridge.”

With artists, especially in Hip-Hop, making their next album their best album becoming cliche, do you think the uniqueness and artistic devotion of Kendrick Lamar makes his proclamation/plan different?

Read the entire Complex cover story.

Related: Here is One of the Best Articles on Kendrick Lamar Ever Written. Guaranteed. (New York Times Feature)