King Kendrick graces the cover of Rolling Stone again.
Rocking a black fur coat and a piercing stare, Kendrick Lamar appears on the August 2017 issue, his second cover since 2015. Shot by famed photographer Mark Seliger, the image has him framed by two shadows on the sides of his face.
The “HUMBLE.” MC, who the magazine hails as the “greatest rapper alive,” opens up in a rare interview. The wide-ranging conversation covers a variety of topics, including President Donald Trump and Drake.
During the lengthy conversation, Kung Fu Kenny also discusses his upbringing, his maturity, and trauma. “I can’t tell you the shit that I’ve been through without telling you the shit that I’ve been through,” he explains. “I’m gonna say, ‘I know murder, conviction, burners, boosters, burglars, dead, redemption, scholars, fathers dead.’ I’m-a give you a breakdown of my life from the time I was born all the way till I was 21.”
But despite the traumatic experiences, he was able to find light. “Well,” he explains, “It was also just a lot of mothafuckin’ parties and a lot of humor, which sometimes blocks the fucked-up shit that I’ve seen. All of the funny shit with my crazy-ass uncles and my pops – he’s funny as fuck. My mom’s a crazy-as-fuck, funny, loving person. These things countered the negative shit, helped me to be able to understand tragedy, but not break from it.”
But the interview delves beyond childhood. In fact, K-Dot chops it up at length about a variety of rappers, including JAY-Z, André 3000, Future, and Drake. When asked about his favorite Drizzy song, for example, he replied with laughter. “Favorite Drake song [chuckles]. I got a lot of favorite Drake songs,” he said. “Can’t name one off the back. … He has plenty.” As a follow-up, the interviewer asked if he prefers “him singing or rapping.” Kendrick replied: “Both. Yeah.”
Elsewhere in the interview, the Top Dawg/Interscope spitter also explains how he is able to balance integrity with pop qualities. “It gets tricky because you can have that one big record, but you can still have that integrity at the same time,” he says. “Not many can do it … wink-wink [laughs]. Still have them raps going crazy on that album and have a Number One record, wink-wink. Call it whatever you want to call it. As long as the artist remains true to the craft of hip-hop and the culture of it, it is what it is.”
See what Kung Fu Kenny has to say about Donald Trump, wack artists, Beyoncé, Jigga, Hndrxx, Three Stacks, and ghostwriters below.
On Donald Trump: “It’s like beating a dead horse. We already know what it is. Are we gonna keep talking about it or are we gonna take action? You just get to a point where you’re tired of talking about it. It weighs you down and it drains your energy when you’re speaking about something or someone that’s completely ridiculous. So, on and off the album, I took it upon myself to take action in my own community. On the record, I made an action to not speak about what’s going on in the world or the places they put us in. Speak on self; reflection of self first. That’s where the initial change will start from.”
On Wack Artists: “How would I define a wack artist? A wack artist uses other people’s music for their approval. We’re talking about someone that is scared to make their own voice, chases somebody else’s success and their thing, but runs away from their own thing. That’s what keeps the game watered-down. Everybody’s not going to be able to be a Kendrick Lamar. I’m not telling you to rap like me. Be you. Simple as that. I watch a lot of good artists go down like that because you’re so focused on what numbers this guy has done, and it dampers your own creativity. Which ultimately dampers the listener, because at the end of the day, it’s not for us. It’s for the person driving to their 9-to-5 that don’t feel like they wanna go to work that morning.”
On Ghostwriters: “It depends on what arena you’re putting yourself in. I called myself the best rapper. I cannot call myself the best rapper if I have a ghostwriter. If you’re saying you’re a different type of artist and you don’t really care about the art form of being the best rapper, then so be it. Make great music. But the title, it won’t be there.”
On Learning from Beyoncé: “She’s a perfectionist. Think about the BET performance. She was very particular – the lighting, the camera blocking, the transition from the music to the dancing. It was confirmation of something I already knew.”
On Future: “He’s his own genius. I’ve watched him in the studio. The way he comes up with the melodies is [snaps fingers] like that, you know. You have to speak a certain type of language and also have a great study in music – the same way I have – for what he’s done. I’m sure he’s grown up off a ton of R&B. Watching him come up with the melodies, that’s a whole other ballgame, to understand them sonics.”
On JAY-Z: “That was my guy. Still is. I’m still a fan. That was just a page I took out of his book, to be able to carry a lyric through conversation and make it feel like I’m sitting right here talking to you.”
On André 3000’s Singing Influence: “For my generation, it would definitely have to be André 3000. He was the first guy. We’d come home from school and he’d be rapping on TV one day, then you came home a week later and he has a song called ‘Prototype,’ which just blows our mind away, you dig what I’m sayin’?”