Kendrick Lamar Explains His New Album Song By Song (Video)
Today (April 21) marks a full seven days since Kendrick Lamar released DAMN., the conceptually driven follow-up to the equally innovative and controversial To Pimp a Butterfly. Already garnering the MC critical and commercial acclaim to rival all of 2017’s highest-rated LPs, DAMN. has inspired its fair share of analysis and reviews, which have flooded the web and social media over the last week. However, a comprehensive statement from the artist himself had yet to take place. That is, until Zane Lowe’s in-depth interview with the Compton artist hit the web today.
In their 45-minute conversation for Beats 1 Radio, the two discuss DAMN.‘s significance, including a track-by-track breakdown of its content. But first, Zane asked his guest whether he’s listened to his own album since its release, and Lamar keeps it 100. “I’ve been attached to this piece of art for the last year and some change, I’ve indulged so much I don’t even want to hear it,” he says (:45). “I just want to give it to the people and let them take it and live with it and breathe it. Then when I come back on that stage, that’s when I want to feel it. That’s when I want to see it, that’s when I want to see your reaction.”
Because this interview took place prior to Lamar’s performance at Coachella on Easter Sunday, he doesn’t comment on the crowd’s reaction to the material, but he does provide Lowe with what may prove to be the most detailed interview about DAMN.’s thematics and backstories that will ever surface. “Everything is 80% premeditated,” Lamar says of the album’s concept and rollout (2:58). “Everything for me is about execution. I can go out with 1,000 ideas, but if I’m not executing it right, it doesn’t feel home to me.” Commenting on his love of word play and messages in his music, he explains that his hope for his work is that it will “live further than two weeks…I want it to live for the next 20 years. You have to listen to it over and over and over and over again to fully understand the direction and the message…I want to challenge the way you think, and the way you take in music.”
Saying that listening to artists like Jay Z, Eminem and Tupac Shakur growing up forced him to appreciate the way their music continued to enlighten and engage him as he aged, Kendrick explains that he wants that “same type of impact on my listener,” several minutes pass until he divulges information that makes his thoughtful approach to crafting his music all the more impressive.
On “PRIDE,” “HUMBLE,” “LUST,” “LOVE”: “These are all just human emotions and me looking in the mirror and coming to grips with them.” (16:35)
On “BLOOD”: “What I can I say about that…It is one of the most interesting pieces on the record. I don’t even know if I can find a way to tell you about the record without telling you about the record. There’s a new life, its a new life.” (22:35)
On “DNA”: “One lesson I learned from Ice Cube, he said ‘if your first opening lines don’t grab the listener, it ain’t shit.” (24:26) and “It’s about me recognizing the world around me. It’s my lifestyle, the one that I’ve grown to see and indulge in from time to time. From a famous perspective.” (25:30)
On Kid Capri’s presence on “ELEMENT” and elsewhere: “The funny thing is, that was one of the first ideas I had for this record. I wanted it to feel like…just the raw elements of Hip-Hop.” (31:50)
On “LOVE”: “I go to this space of being a teen and you just now figuring out what is the concept of actually, further than being attracted to a woman, but actually loving someone.” (35:00)
On “XXX”: “It’s an idea of complete chaos and madness…organized madness. Controlled madness. Us trying to control this madness.” (36:32)
On “DUCKWORTH”: “My Pops came to the studio after I’d been locked in with [Top Dawg] for a minute and we got a relationship now, bring my Pops through. He heard I was dealing with Top Dawg but my Pops personally don’t know him as Top Dawg, the industry know him as Top Dawg… So when he walked in that room and he seen that Top Dawg was this guy, he flipped. Still ’til to this day they laugh and they laugh and they trip out and they tell the same story over and over to each other.” (39:00)
At the 21:45 mark, Lamar discusses some of the more overarching qualities to DAMN.‘s content, particularly within the context of a Trump presidency. “I wanted more self-self evaluation and discipline, because what’s going on now. We’re not focusing on him. What’s going on now—we focusing on self. You see real different nationalities and cultures are coming together and actually standing up for themselves and I think that’s a pure reflection of this record prior to this even happening prior to even coming out. We say OK we can’t control—now we see we can control what’s going on out there. It was a whole ‘nother power that be, so what we can do now is we can start coming together and figuring out our own problems and home solutions.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Kendrick Lamar discusses his fascination with words, why ‘Pac is never far from his mind, why he is the greatest rapper alive, and more.