Kendrick Lamar lands his second Rolling Stone cover of his career with the new August 24th issue and he blessed writer Brian Hiatt with a wide-ranging interview for the issue’s main feature. The pair spoke at length about the rapper’s stoic nature in the face of superstardom, how his upbringing in Compton is responsible for that nature and why actions speak louder than words with regard to resisting Trump and his minions. But throughout the interview, K.Dot fields questions about the culture of Hip-Hop and his opinions on what defines a great artist, and while he’s mostly just answering these questions honestly, his answers will almost certainly be interpreted as shots at some other Rap giants.
At one point he fields a couple of questions about ghostwriting in Rap and his definition of a “wack artist” and he answers unequivocally that you can’t call yourself the GOAT if you’re leaning on somebody else’s pen or riding somebody else’s wave. Later in the interview, he’s asked what his favorite Drake song is, and while he answers diplomatically, he declines to name a track. K.Dot also delves into the thought process behind DAMN and whether or not he consciously made an effort to make this album more accessible than his previous LP. He further speaks on lyricism as a commodity and notes that no matter how loud people clamor for bars, DJ’s are still going to spin music that gets people on the dancefloor.
I’ve included a few interesting excerpts below, but you can read the full Q&A here.
Other than a few lyrics, you’ve been quiet about Donald Trump. Why?
I mean, 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.
Is it ever OK for a rapper to have a ghostwriter? You’ve obviously written verses for Dr. Dre yourself.
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.
You have a Number One record, which means, on some level, you’re a pop artist.
It gets tricky because you can have that one big record, but you can still have that integrity at the same time. 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.
What’s your favorite Drake song?
Favorite Drake song [chuckles]. I got a lot of favorite Drake songs. Can’t name one off the back. … He has plenty.
Do you prefer him singing or rapping?
A lot of people think that lyrical virtuosity, having bars, isn’t as valued in hip-hop as it once was. Do you agree?
I made my mark at a right point in time, man – 2011 and 2012, it was just that window where fans wanted to hear lyricism. You could probably step in the game today with lyricism. But it may not be as respected, because the times have changed so dramatically.
Previously: Kendrick Lamar ft. Rihanna – Loyalty (Video)