Dave Chappelle & Kendrick Lamar Have A Deep Conversation Between 2 Masters At Work

Andy Warhol created Interview magazine in 1969 to allow interesting, creative people to have conversations, and let the public get rare access through reading. Two people dealing with industries that are foreign to most people can yield an interesting, intimate conversation different than the media-facing interview or the staged red carpet chat.

Two highly influential voices recently came together for Interview, and readers get to share the experience. Kendrick Lamar is still riding the wave of his latest #1 album, DAMN. Having just achieved double-platinum status (announced today), the LP has a lot to unpack in its themes and meaning. As Kendrick reaches his highest plateau, comedian/actor Dave Chappelle has enjoyed a monstrous comeback. Through Netflix, the veteran stand-up and sketch comedian has been able to create strictly on his terms, in a way he says has been more lucrative than past ventures.

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In the Interview conversation, Dave asks K-Dot, “When you write, how much do you think about the repercussions of anything you might say?” Kendrick replies, “When I look at comedy—at Richard Pryor, at you—it’s all self-expression. I apply that same method to my music. I came up listening to N.W.A and Snoop [Dogg]. Like them, it’s in me to express how I feel. You might like it or you might not, but I take that stand.” Later in the chat, the rapper says that self-expression is his “mission statement,” above all others.

Chappelle replies, “I have this thing when I write jokes; I call it my unseen audience. I’ll think of certain people when I’m writing certain types of jokes. For instance: ‘What would my mother say?’ Who do you think about when you write? Are you thinking about the streets? A lot of your work is openly spiritual and contemplative.” The MC answers, “I really focus on what my fans will take from it, people living their day-to-day lives. At the end of the day, the music isn’t for me; it’s for people who are going through their struggles and want to relate to someone who feels the same way they do. I’ve got to take Mom out of the equation. I’ve got to go all-in, expressing myself, right there in the moment.

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Chappelle, who told The Breakfast Club last month that he’d met Tupac Shakur, brings up Pac. The comedian mentions how Shakur spoke about fame and fortune leaving him no place to go, or community to which he felt he belonged. Kendrick showed Pac’s influence through a staged “interview” of their own on To Pimp A Butterfly. Chappelle asks the 30-year-old Compton, California native if he experienced “altitude sickness” during his rise to super-stardom. “I think I’m still growing. The more people I meet, the more cultures I start to embrace, the more people I open myself up to—it’s a growing process I’m excited about. But it’s also a challenge for me, to be at this level and still be able to connect with somebody who’s living that everyday life.” Kendrick continues, “At first it was something I struggled with because everything was moving so fast. I didn’t know how to digest it. The best thing I did was go back to the city of Compton, to touch the people who I grew up with and tell them the stories of the people I met around the world. Making To Pimp A Butterfly was me navigating those experiences.

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Chappelle gets Kendrick’s take on all the masses (critics and fans alike) trying to decode his work. Dave asks Kenny if he finds that strange. “Everybody has their own way of hearing songs. My fans are usually pretty on point. Sometimes they go all the way to the bottom of it. It’s fascinating to me how far an idea can go,” he says. The MC adds that he believes fans hear his music as well as listen to his work.

In a candid moment, Chappelle, now 43, tells Lamar that he’s doing well as a man juggling fame, fortune, and higher purpose. “From the outside looking in, you’re doing beautifully, man. Your work is great, and you seem grounded and centered and focused. When I was your age, I used to f*ck up all the time. [Laughs] Hopefully, I can catch one of your shows on the road.

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Dave adds that Yasiin Bey (whom he calls Mos Def) told the comedian years ago that Lamar was one to watch. In response, Kendrick praises the Black Star MC, who appeared several times on Chappelle’s Show.

Read the complete Interview feature between Dave Chappelle and Kendrick Lamar here.

Next month, Chappelle begins a New York City residency of stand-up and musical concerts at Radio City Music Hall. It marks 30 years in the field.

#BonusBeat: Last month Dave discussed Kendrick as being among his favorite MCs while on Sway In The Morning:

Chappelle said, “Kendrick [Lamar] is killing it right now. Like, some of the sh*t he puts out sounds like pure, uncut adrenaline.”