On the eve before good kid, m.A.A.d city was to come out, Andreas Hale was behind-the-scenes as Kendrick Lamar made history in less than a day.
The night of Oct. 19th, 2012 was a special one in Las Vegas. Kendrick Lamar was on the 32nd stop of a 34 city tour in advance of his major label debut album being released to the masses.
As a sort of gift and curse, good kid, m.A.A.d city had sprung the proverbial leak three days prior to the album’s official release date and the masses already had their ears wrapped around the highly anticipated album.
The buzz from what the artist formally known as K-Dot spilled into that project was palpable. It was immediately heralded as an instant classic, which was rare for an artist who cleared his own path independently. The flood of reviews and social media discussion made his Las Vegas stop that much more significant. The show was already sold out, but with the album leak, it became the hottest ticket on The Strip. Forget Cirque du Soleil, it was all about Kendrick Lamar. The confines of the Hard Rock Café are built for a decent sized crowd. Too big for an independent artists trying to make a name for themselves but too small to house an artist with a rabid fanbase.
Kendrick was right on the cusp of the latter, as evidenced by the line wrapped around the block as fans tried their hardest to squeeze their body into the venue that was already teetering on the fire marshals shutting it down. Nevertheless, the show went off without a hitch as fans absorbed K-Dot’s energy from previous projects and a few morsels from GKMC.
After the performance, we wait backstage to interview the Compton emcee while politicking with fellow TDE members Jay Rock and Ab-Soul. Kendrick has retreated to his dressing room to collect himself. There aren’t many people backstage aside from TDE personnel, myself, Shake from 2DopeBoyz, two of our videographers and Rob Markman, formerly of MTV. After an hour, TDE general manager Ret One emerges and asks if we would like to join Kendrick at the studio tonight.
them TDE boys recorded The Heart pt.3 last night here in Vegas.
— Shake (@dopeboySHAKE) October 20, 2012
“The studio?” I ask. It’s well past midnight and after 32 cities, you would think that Kendrick would need to get some rest in. If not sleep, the allure of the Vegas nightlife has often swallowed artists alive.
Nope. Not on this night. Kendrick Lamar has work to do.
The studio is a good 20 minutes from the venue and we arrive somewhere around two in the morning. Kendrick hops out the car and makes a beeline for the studio doors. Everyone else leisurely strolls in and plops down on the leather couches in the green room. Drinks are poured and some marijuana clouds travel through the building. But Kendrick is not even remotely interested in either vice. Instead, he emerges from the bathroom, greets those of us asked to hang out and pulls out a pair of black houseshoes.
“Don’t laugh,” he says. “I wear these whenever I’m in the studio.” Mind you, he hasn’t changed out of his camouflage button-down and jeans. He’s just needed to put on a comfy pair of slippers. Moments later, the muffled sounds of a Tae Beast production can be heard. Kendrick paces with a focused look. Those of us in the room lower our voices to not interrupt whatever words are bouncing around in his head. He stops, looks up from underneath the brim of his “L.A.” hat and darts into the recording area. The door shuts and everyone collectively raise the volume of their conversation. Our crew is setting up to record a three part interview and a “Decoded” session where Kendrick would later break down the first verse of “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst.” But, right now? Kung-Fu Kenny is all business as the moon and sun are preparing to exchange places in the sky.
In between interviews with Ab-Soul and Jay Rock (ScHoolBoy Q was on the road at the time), we have candid conversations about GKMC. Jay Rock can’t help but remind that he told me about Kendrick’s greatness when we first met in 2009. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe him, but not like this. He’s laughing. “I told you, I told you, I told you,” he says in between breaths. “Little bro is going to be a legend.”