In the wake of the protests regarding Michael Brown and Eric Garner’s killers walking free, MTV caught up with Kendrick Lamar at a recent Reebok event to discuss the social impact of his latest single, “i.”
During the interview, Kendrick shares that these situations aren’t anything new to him, revealing his father’s advice on dealing with structural racism as an African American male.
“It’s something that I’ve been around since the beginning of time. I remember coming up in the city of Compton and [seeing] these same types of ordeals. So when I make a record like “i”, this is not just about me. It’s about what’s going on in real life, actual [facts].
My father definitely talked to me about that early on—he came from Chicago to Compton, and he dealt with it his whole life. He knew the moment I was born [that] the color of my skin was gonna be put to the test, and that’s just how it is. We have legacy, people who’ve died for it, but [there’s] still that type of negativity out there.
He told me, ‘Every day, carry yourself with some integrity and don’t let them see you sweat.’”
Kendrick then goes on to discuss the importance of using his influence, and platform to teach the youth.
“I can take inspiration and knowledge from my father and what’s going on in my own life and give it back. Not because I feel like I need to. It’s just something that’s in me, since day one.
“I have to put that same type of influence on my ‘lil brothers, on the ‘lil homies in the neighborhood. We tend to act in violence all the time, and that’s just something we were brought up to do. Now that I’m more mature, I [can show] them other avenues to go about handling themselves: Being knowledgeable and jumping into a book rather than reaching for a pistol and reacting that way.”
Speaking on your style, a lot of people said that your look on SNL was reminiscent of ODB and Method Man with the black contact lenses and the hair halfway done. Was that the look that you were going for?
Yeah, it was. Of course it was a tribute to ODB and Meth and to the whole Wu-Tang, but overall what I was expressing is, when you strip down the chains and the jewelry and the shine that’s on the outside, what do you have inside of you? Stripping down the chains and the lights for me was okay. It’s a great-ass performance, you dig what I’m saying? Something that comes from the soul.
That wasn’t me up there, that was an angel, you feel what I’m saying? And that’s what I felt like ODB represented, I feel like Meth represents to this day—an expression where it’s not really about, per se, what you should look like, but more what are you talking about, and how is it coming across on TV to that person that is on the couch watching.
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