Erykah Badu x Kendrick Lamar Interview
Erykah Badu had a chat with Kendrick Lamar about music and the state of life since his meteoric rise to fame in the past two years - a phenomenon fueled in large-part by his major-label debut good kid, m.A.A.d. city, released in 2012. Their conversation - reportedly conducted via phone while Kendrick Lamar was at an airport in Denver - formed the basis of a recent feature published in Interview Magazine. The Compton rapper considered by many to be one of the hottest MCs breathing, is the author of a compelling narrative of young life in the ghetto delivered with a brand of candor and sonic ingenuity absent far too often from the major hip-hop releases of late. The hallmark of Lamar's project is a talent more reliant on an innate and staggeringly rich trough of wisdom than the wow factor of raw lyricism, though he is nowhere near devoid of skills. During the Q&A with E. Badu, Kendrick Lamar details the joy he derives from watching his family emerge from poverty after years of having nothing - a byproduct of his success that is more immediately accessible than his ability to live in the moment as a public persona. They also discuss the effects of social media and the rappers Kendrick Lamar considers his earliest and most important influences. Check a bit of the discussion below. Scroll down to peep the full interview.
ERYKAH BADU: Can you describe how it feels to be in this cyclone of good fortune that you're experiencing right now? How are you handling all of it?
KENDRICK LAMAR: I always thought money was something just to make me happy. But I've learned that I feel better being able to help my folks, 'cause we never had nothing. So just to see them excited about my career is more of a blessing than me actually having it for myself. My folks ain't graduated from high school or nothing like that, so we always had to struggle in the family—and I come from a big family. But as far as me handling this, it's a weird feeling because it's like a blur right now. I think my worst problem is actually living in the moment and understanding everything that's going on. I feel like I'm in my own bubble. People tell me all the time, "You're crazy, going there by yourself," because it wouldn't have soaked in yet that I'm supposed to be quote "Kendrick Lamar"—whoever this guy's supposed to be. I still feel like me. So it's really about me trying to adapt—that's like the toughest thing for me right now. I feel like I'm in my own world.
BADU: That's great because it's easy to get caught up in your own hype, if you will. You know, when you're on Twitter or Facebook and there's all of this praise—it's easy to get caught up in all that.
LAMAR: That's why I try my best to stay away from social media as much as possible. [laughs] When you go on your Twitter or look down your Timeline and it's all great positivity—I love that. But at the same time, it can really divert you from what your purpose is or what you're trying to do. And I've seen artists get caught up in that. I've seen some of my friends get caught in that. Whether you're a small celebrity or a grand celebrity, it really triggers something in your brain, seeing all that stuff . . . So I'm real aware of it.
BADU: What are you trying to achieve as a musician, if anything at all?
LAMAR: Well, like I was saying, as a kid I was always fascinated knowing that I could be the best at something—like Jay-Z or Nas or B.I.G. But putting a positive light on where I come from is also important to me. When you think of Compton, it's numb with negativity, even to this day. So the whole purpose of this first album was really to spark the idea of doing something different rather than doing a record that's just about gang culture. That's the ultimate thing I want to do in making music—to be able to inspire somebody else.
BADU: Speaking of Compton, tell me about how you grew up. You said that you come from a big family.
LAMAR: My mom's got 14 brothers and sisters, my pop's got 10. They started in Chicago and came to L.A. . . .Well, they actually came to Compton—just them two—in '84, and then they had me in '87. But they paved the way for all my uncles and aunties and my cousins—eventually everybody came out. At one particular time, in the early '90s, we all stayed in the two black neighborhoods in Compton. So it was one of them things where it was like we were the neighborhood. So, as a kid, I was watching all of these things going on—parties, drinking, smoking, violence. But I was totally oblivious to it because I felt like it was just life. At the same time, I had birthdays and Christmas and holidays, which allowed me to actually be a kid. It gave me the ability to be a dreamer. That's what separated me from all my homeboys—the fact that I didn't get caught inside the reality. I was always dreaming about doing something else or going somewhere else.