There was no escaping Kendrick Lamar last year. His second album, ‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City,’ released in October, was a tuneful rap attack thick with wit and wordplay. By year’s end, two million Spotify streams and 250,000 sales in the U.S. later, the album was topping best-of-2012 lists. The rapper Nas, who released his 11th album last year, also singled out the record, saying, “No disrespect to nobody else in rap music, but Kendrick Lamar... I’m really happy about his record. I needed that. His record reaches you. It gives you hope.”
Lamar, 25, is from Compton, California, where 25 years ago N.W.A. exploded with the seminal rap album ‘Straight Outta Compton.’ With ‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City,’ Lamar is showing that little has changed in a quarter century. His music is informed by childhood memories of traumatic family events, but he relays his hard-knock life with a powerful, eloquent lightness of touch. The album also pays tribute to founding fathers of rap central to his own success. Here, Lamar tells The Red Bulletin who made him what he is.
“He gave me the inspiration to talk about things that most people are scared of talking about, things like vulnerability and weaknesses. It’s great to have somebody before me to show me the ropes. I was at the video shoot of his song ‘California Love’ when I was a kid. My pops took me, put me on his shoulders, gave me the chance to see Dr. Dre and Tupac. I’ll always remember it.”
“When I was a kid his music was always played in our house -- as well as Dre’s, because you can’t get Snoop without Dre. They really defined my style and sound, enabled me to speak on something that’s real. I really dig his new reincarnation as Snoop Lion. He’s done it all, he’s seen it all. Now he’s about peace, love, happiness -- and smoking weed. Meet him in person, you’ll see -- he’s a real genuine dude.”
“He is my mentor. He says, ‘Stay focused, don’t let this be the peak of your career. You’re fresh, you still got so much more to do.’ It’s like when he first got in the studio with Eminem. He was amazed how many great songs Eminem was making, but he still today feels Eminem hasn’t made his best song yet. And he looks the same way in my eyes. It’s a great feeling to have. He inspires me to go harder.”
Check out the April 2013 issue of Red Bulletin magazine (on newsstands March 12) for more articles. To read the magazine on your iPad, download the Red Bulletin iPad app. Follow Red Bulletin on Twitter for more.