Kendrick Lamar graces the cover of Vanity Fair.
For the magazine’s August issue (“The Gospel According to Kendrick”), writer Lisa Robinson caught up with the Compton kingpin in the midst of his “Championship Tour” and Pulitzer Prize ceremony. In the wide-ranging interview, he opened up about success, his writing process, and starting a family.
The self-described “introvert” also addressed the incident onstage at a recent show when a white fan used the N-word while rapping his lyrics (“Let me have this one word, please let me have that word”) and Kanye West’s support for Donald Trump (“He’s on this whole agree to disagree thing”).
Plus, he reflected on becoming the first hip-hop act to win a Pulitzer Prize. “It was one of those things I heard about in school, but I never thought I’d be a part of it,” said Kendrick.
But there was one topic that was off limits—his fiancée Whitney Alford. “I want something that’s just for me,” said K-Dot.
Read highlights from the interview below.
On whether he shot someone at 16: “I’ll put it this way: I’ve seen my own blood shed, and I’ve been the cause of other people shedding their blood as well. There was a split second when I felt what my homeboys were feeling–like I don’t give a fuck anymore–and that’s when I knew something else had to happen.”
On the N-word: “Let me put it to you in its simplest form. I’ve been on this earth for 30 years, and there’s been so many things a Caucasian person said I couldn’t do. Get good credit. Buy a house in an urban city. So many things–‘you can’t do that’–whether it’s from afar or close up. So if I say this is my word, let me have this one word, please let me have that word.”
On his writing process: “‘Execution’ is my favorite word. I spend 80 percent of my time thinking about how I’m going to execute, and that might be a whole year of constantly jotting down ideas, figuring out how I’m going to convey these words to a person to connect to it. What is this word that means this, how did it get here and why did it go there and how can I bring it back there? Then, the lyrics are easy.”
On Eminem: “Eminem is probably one of the best wordsmiths ever. There’s a whole list of why, but just bending words. . . . The Marshall Mathers LP changed my life.”
On being an introvert: “I like to be alone a lot. I need that. It’s that duality: I can go in front of a crowd of 100,000 people and express myself, then go back, be alone, and collect my thoughts all over again.”
On success: “I look back to when I was 16 years old and thought, What would I do with a million dollars? I’m gonna buy this, I’m gonna buy that . . . Then I thought that me doing that is actually hurting people I’m responsible for. I’m the first in my family to have this kind of success, so I took it upon myself to wisely navigate this success, because I wanted them to be successful, too.”
On starting a family: “This is the constant question, because I’m obsessed with my craft and what I’m doing. I know what I’m chasing for my life, even though I don’t know what it is. But it’s an urge that’s in my every day. That urge to make an ultimate connection with words to man. And I don’t feel I’ve done that yet.”
On the NFL and national anthem protests: “It’s enraging; I think what Kap [Colin Kaepernick] is doing is honest, and it’s not just his truth, it’s our truth.”
On winning the Pulitzer Prize: “It was one of those things I heard about in school, but I never thought I’d be a part of it. [When I heard I got it], I thought, to be recognized in an academic world . . . whoa, this thing really can take me above and beyond. It’s one of those things that should have happened with hip-hop a long time ago. It took a long time for people to embrace us–people outside of our community, our culture–to see this not just as vocal lyrics, but to see that this is really pain, this is really hurt, this is really true stories of our lives on wax. And now, for it to get the recognition that it deserves as a true art form, that’s not only great for myself, but it makes me feel good about hip-hop in general. Writers like Tupac, Jay Z, Rakim, Eminem, Q-Tip, Big Daddy Kane, Snoop . . . It lets me know that people are actually listening further than I expected.”
On Kanye West’s support for Trump: “He has his own perspective, and he’s on this whole agree to disagree thing, and I would have this conversation with him personally if I want to.”