With his highly-anticipated major label follow-up to GKMC due out later this year, Kendrick Lamar’s name is sure to start popping on a more frequent basis. This morning, The New York Times published an insightful profile on K. Dot that offers an insightful look at the Compton kid’s new-found fame, lifestyle and tame personality.
Writer Lizzy Goodman joined Lamar for three weeks during his time on the Yeezus tour, taking in all the surroundings and ending up with a phenomenal piece on the TDE sniper. Check out couple choice quotes below and do yourself and proceed to the NY Times website to read the profile in full.
“If my edge is dull, my sword is dull, and I don’t want to fight another guy whose sword is dull,” Lamar later told me. “If you’ve got two steel swords going back and forth hitting each other, what’s gonna happen? Both of them are going to get sharper.” He laments what he sees as the impotency that has taken over the rap game. “Everybody that’s in the industry has lost their edge,” he said. “There’s really no aggression. You gotta say things particular, and everything is so soft.”
“I’ve never been on a tour where there’s no booze,” someone grumbled. “I need alcohol.” When I was on the road with Lamar, he didn’t drink, and in general, his crew followed suit. This is part of his commitment to staying focused on his singular ambition: greatness. “There’s a certain hunger that you can sense about Kendrick,” Eminem says. “He raps to be the best rapper in the world. He competitive-raps. That’s one of the things that’s going to drive his career. He’s going to be around for a long time.”
“We’ve been in Compton before,” points out Eminem, with whom Lamar has collaborated in the studio and toured. “But the way that Kendrick did it was so different. . . . The album is crafted from front to back, the way each song ties into each other — to me that’s genius.”
Backstage at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, West personally approached Lamar about joining him on the road. “It’s a different kind of thrill when an actual artist asks you, when Kanye asks you,” Lamar said, pronouncing West’s first name the way he always does, with the emphasis on the last syllable, kahn-YAY. “Now I know he’s really interested in what I do.” Lamar said it was easy to make that happen after the chat, but his team remembered a lot of back and forth. “Believe it or not, we were actually trying not to do the tour,” says Terrence Henderson, better known as Punch, the president of Top Dawg Entertainment, Lamar’s label. “We wanted Kendrick to be recording that whole time.”
It’s tempting to imagine that tour partnerships between an established star and an up-and-comer result in lots of communal bonding. And of course sometimes they do. Bono has become famous for taking young bands out on the road with U2 and dispensing his so-called Bono Talk, a sermon on how to avoid the pitfalls of fame. Lamar knew people wanted to think this was happening between him and West, and he obliged within reason, dutifully explaining to journalists how much he was learning from West or telling an employee of his label who asked if they had been hanging out, “We haven’t really got an off day yet to chill out, but that’s the plan.” But a mentor-mentee relationship wasn’t what was expected or desired, and it certainly was not what was happening.
“I’m the worst,” he eventually said, breaking the silence. “Whenever I get good news about anything . . . man, I guess I’m bad at receiving compliments.” He stopped typing but didn’t look up from the phone, his face all but obscured beneath his black hood. “Like yesterday with the nominations, things like that — it made me feel like I had to be in the studio because I had to do it, not again, but. . . .” He couldn’t quite finish his thought. “It just bothers me,” he said finally. “I don’t want to be something that just comes and goes.”