Kendrick Lamar & ‘TPAB’ Collaborators Break Down Making Of “For Free?” x “How Much A Dollar Cost”

blame it on Shake February 10, 2016

By now, you may have read the GRAMMYs’ “The Oral History Of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly,” which features several of the artists involved in the creation of the Album Of The Year nominee, including top 58th GRAMMY nominee Kendrick Lamar.

Only at 2DopeBoyz, Andreas Hale shares additional excerpts from his extensive conversation with some key players behind the album—including MixedByAli, Sounwave, Terrace Martin, and Thundercat.

Check out the story of “For Free? (Interlude)” and “How Much A Dollar Cost,” featured on To Pimp A Butterfly, below. And visit GRAMMY.com to read the inside story of Lamar’s album and the other four 58th GRAMMY Album Of The Year nominees.

“For Free? (Interlude)”

Sounwave (co-producer): That was one big jazz session. Everyone was just feeding off each other.

Kendrick Lamar: The musicians I had around me had to be of free spirit in the studio when it comes to creating. Everybody had to put their egos to the side. When you get a bunch of crazy and creative people, you have these sessions. I’m sure Thundercat was laughing at how I came up with the concept.

Thundercat (co-producer): Kendrick is the s***, dude! He’s a comedian. I was just playing and Kendrick was talking some crazy Richard Pryor s***.

Lamar: I went on a tangent and just kept on saying “this d*** ain’t free!” around the studio. We laughed all day. At the same time, Terrace Martin and Robert Glasper were in there creating so I just started freestyling. Most of the freestyle was funny and random but it was also real, kind of like a satire.

Terrace Martin (co-producer): I don’t know how [Lamar] has these songs titled to this day. We were just messing around and it was all for fun but after I kept listening to it I knew it was a little more serious. I took it home and worked on a few more things. Then we came back and added some more elements.

MixedByAli (co-engineer/mixer): The session itself was different. I don’t have a musical background and nobody in my family plays instruments so seeing that entire jazz band go in was a different experience entirely. That was actually the first time I recorded an upright bass.

Sounwave: You know what? We have no video footage from that session. It was a moment in time that you [had] to be present in.

“How Much A Dollar Cost”

Sounwave: That was one of the earlier songs we recorded that made it through the fire. We had that song like a year before it was done. It took [Lamar] months to write that song. Certain records he has to get everything perfect. I’m not going to lie, for me it can be annoying. I’m telling him that it sounds like the same thing he just recorded but he spots things.

MixedByAli: He’s very specific. You can’t be too mad at that. James Fauntleroy’s hook to the song came in last. He initially had a whole different hook before that.

Sounwave: He was just messing around and it felt right. He wrote it for the bridge but it sounded so crazy that it fit.

MixedByAli: He knew what he wanted with Ronald Isley. If you go through old sessions you could hear [Lamar] singing those hooks.

Sounwave: And he was mimicking Ronald Isley’s voice the whole time. He was going to wait however long it took until Isley had time to record.

Lamar: A lot of times, there are a few records that I know will be personal favorites of mine but they might not have the connection to the masses that a “King Kunta” or an “Alright” might have. I usually can sense what records will connect on a broader scale. This one was a personal favorite for me. If everybody vetoed me in the studio, I would have been fighting to say I need this song. Sometimes I don’t think that records will touch many people like it touches me. But that record’s success was a shock for me. It was a slower tempo song that I did and then I heard that it’s President Obama’s favorite song eightmonths later. It’s crazy how things work like that.

Tune in to the 58th Annual GRAMMY Awards live from Staples Center in Los Angeles on Monday, Feb. 15 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on CBS.