When details about Drake’s album, Take Care, began to surface over the last month or so, much of the information was expected. 40 was handling the bulk of the production, with a bunch of assists from T-Minus. Drizzy’s Young Money family Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj were slated to appear, as was his young bull, The Weeknd, and his idol, Andre 3000. And so was Kendrick Lamar.
The 2011 XXL Freshman has been getting a number of looks this year, from work with Dr. Dre to tracks with Game, Wiz Khalifa, Warren G and more. Still, Take Care was a chance for K. Dot to get a major level of exposure to a largely new demographic. When the album leaked, anyone familiar with the Compton native’s music wasn’t surprised with his impressive showing on “Buried Alive.” Others may be thinking, who is this guy?
Here, Kendrick explains what it was like meeting Drake, his approach to writing the verse, and the overwhelmingly positive response he’s gotten. —Adam Fleischer @AdamXXL
XXLMag.com: What was your first meeting with Drake like? You speak about it some in the verse.
Kendrick Lamar: I did a show in Toronto [on June 16]. My first show in Toronto. I think it was the same night, we was going back to the hotel, and he hit my phone. I guess he had got the word that I was in town. He was there for the night working for the album, and he just said [he wanted to] meet up. We met up, chilled out, got to vibe, see where each other was at and shit. Sometimes you like a person’s music but you definitely don’t like the actual artist when you sit down and you talk to them. That’s a real good dude. He got a real genuine soul. We clicked immediately. We had spoken probably one time before that.
Was there discussion of you being on Take Care that night?
Nah. He told me the basics and the idea of where he was going with it, but we really didn’t speak about me being on the album.
So when did he hit you to ask if you’d be on the album?
He reached out, I wanna say, after I dropped Section80. He was actually the first person to hear Section80. I gave it to him that night. He was catching a flight somewhere, and I sent it to him through e-mail, and he was just rocking out with it for a minute. Really bigging me up on the project, telling me to keep doing what I’m doing, that it’s amazing. Probably a week after [it dropped], he said, I wanna get you on the album. The first time he told me, he said he wanted to get me on a song with The Weeknd. But I don’t know if that song actually made the album. And then after that, a few more conversations, and he finally sent me an instrumental and told me to do what I want on it.
Were you surprised? On the song you speak about rappers giving you a false word. Like, I imagine, they say they fuck with you and wanna work, but nothing ever comes of it.
For him to actually reach out and say come to this spot where we at to chill out, that was a move by itself. A lot of people will talk to you on the phone or text you, but when it’s actually time to sit down and work, you never catch ‘em. I thought it was dope on his behalf to even reach out.
Did you know the direction of the album? Had you heard music that night you met that helped you approach the verse?
I didn’t hear no music for the album. Me being a fan of his music, following his career and listening to the prior songs he dropped, I felt like he was in a space now where vanity is everywhere, and he has his hands on every bit of it and he’s trying to escape that. But, at the same time, not being in denial of it. I wanted to speak from a standpoint of me being a new artist, and almost being in his shoes that he was a couple years ago, or last year, and expressing them feelings.
Did you know it was going to be an interlude, and sequenced like it was?
I wasn’t sure. When I finished, I thought of it as a dope interlude, but I didn’t mention it to him, cause I figured he could do whatever he want with it. But when I finished it, it felt like an interlude. Like something warming up to a bigger song.
To close out the verse, you say, “I live a double life and need to let her go/The reason why, the highlight was when he said:’You belong to the people when you outside/So dig a shovel full of money, full of power, full of pussy, full of fame/And bury yourself alive’/then I died.” What’s going on there?
At the end of that verse, that’s him, in the conversation, him telling me that you have to accept this lifestyle, because all of that will come, and it’s up to you how far you’re gonna go with it, or how much you’re gonna let in. Me acknowledging that, when I say, “Then I died,” it leaves it hanging on the audience trying to figure out where would I go with it? Will I let it taint me or destroy me? Or will I know how to deal with it?
Going back to your older stuff even a few years back, you’ve talked about grappling with vanity. Have those issues been magnified with recent success?
Definitely. Me getting the notoriety that I’m getting right now, I’m seeing a lot of ills, I’m seeing a lot of positives. It’s just me balancing it out now. That concept wasn’t far-fetched to where I’m actually at, as far as me dealing with the success that’s happening right now. So it was easy for me to write.
To kick off the verse, you talk about being a “suicidal terrorist.” Why?
It’s me being in denial. When I say buried alive, that means I might kill myself over everything that’s happening. The women, the money. That’s a metaphor for me basically saying, drowning yourself in that, and not being able to come back. “Lookin’ in the mirror I’m embarrassed.” I’m embarrassed with what’s going on, and I’m in denial of it. And saying I’m a suicidal terrorist, I might kill myself over it.
So it’s really that same thread that starts and ends the verse.
What kind of feedback have you gotten?
The feedback has been crazy! I understand the album wasn’t out, but it felt like the album dropped the same day as the leak. Nothing [less] than great, as far as the responses. People saying it’s one of my best verses—I don’t know if they just saying that because it’s on the Drake album [laughs]. Either way, they love it, and they understand if, because , if they follow my music before, I always talk about subject matter like that. And for the people that are just now catching on, it makes sense to them, too, because I break it all down. Meeting a person that’s the same age as you, and that moment of him pulling up in a Maybach and 40 pulling up with no doors. At that moment, you want that. You go back to this mind state where materialistic things is something that you want in your life. The moment I seen that, and how young he was, put me back in that space, no matter how much you try to fight it.
Was that a feeling that surprised you?
Yeah, it did. It’s crazy. At the end of the day, we all human. And that’s what people—I think that’s why they fuck with me the most. Because I’ve put that in my music, that I’m just a human being like everyone else, trying to figure [things] out. Even with Drake. He told me, Thank you. But he also said, the description I painted was something we haven’t heard in our generation in a while. I thought that was a dope compliment.
Is this a good introduction to Kendrick Lamar?
It’s definitely showing one side of things, of who I am. I feel there’s lot more they can hear. It’s also dope, because I don’t think my name is actually on the back of the cover. It’s a mystique. Who the fuck is this person on the back of “Marvin’s Room?” Which is everyone’s favorite song, as far as the females I know, and even some niggas. And I think that’s dope, because once they like it, they gonna go search for it and figure out who’s on there, and that’s when the buzz will continue to grow. One thing I’ve learned is that when something is really good, and people fuck with it, they gonna find you, regardless.