Ed. Note: The following interview with Kendrick Lamar is pulled from the outtakes from XXL‘s TDE cover story in our upcoming Oct/Nov issue.
When XXL sat down with Kendrick Lamar for his third appearance on the cover of the magazine, things had changed from when he appeared as part of 2011′s Freshman Class. Hell, many things had changed from just last year, when he shared the front page with Dr. Dre. For starters, his debut major label album, good kid, m.A.A.d. city was released, garnering praise from everyone in hip-hop not named Shyne. Amazingly, the cerebral and introspective album went platinum during a time when that plaque is becoming more precious than the metal it’s named after. Recently, he’s been named as one of Forbes Hip-Hop Cash Kings (coming in at number 14 on the list with an estimated $9 million in earnings). And—perhaps more pointedly for hip-hop purists—he did this thing on this song once that had everybody talking about it all day and night for a week. As a matter of fact, the day before out interview, TMZ‘s camera caught up with Kendrick as he landed at LAX Airport and asked him about that thing he did on that song. Obviously, nothing’s been the same since they released “Control.” —kris ex
Kendrick Lamar: That’s crazy.
How did you break into that world? You’re like a little backpack rapper, and then all of a sudden TMZ cares about what you’re doing.
That world is The Matrix. I don’t understand that world—that’s The Matrix.
Is it really like they say, that it happens fast? Even though you’re moving real slow and then—
Yeah, that’s very true. That’s very true. It definitely happens fast, but not fast in the sense, saying you didn’t put in the work—I’ve been doing this for ten years—but when that light beams on you, it happens fast from an aspect where you’re doing so much every day [that] you’re not really aware of the attention that you’re getting, ’cause you’re doing interviews, you do a show, then you do a studio, it’s just a constant, daily plan, so you can’t look at yourself. You can’t be in the crowd looking at yourself on stage, you know. I can only look in the mirror and know I’m Kendrick, and see that same little boy I seen seven years [ago], but I can’t see what everyone else sees. So more and more, I’m really unfazed by it as more and more success is hitting me and I’m not really sure [about it all]. It’s a tricky thing, for sure.
What’s your day-to-day been like for the past few months? Has it been mostly touring and interviews? Have you back in the studio? Do you write often? Where are you at, as an artist?
I’ve been on the road for the most part. But at the same time I gotta stay creative, I gotta stay writing—I’m usually writing every day. I can’t miss a day without writing, whether it’s a line, a verse, or an idea. I always have to have that creative flow going.
When you say you write, what’s your writing process like? Are you writing or are you just thinking shit in your mind?
The process for my first album, my debut album, and even music prior to that, it’s always been like 50/50. I have some songs where I just went in the booth and just got the thoughts off and I didn’t want to feel like I was confined with a sheet of paper. Some records, I may sit with it and have scraps of napkins everywhere, and papers everywhere scattered, then [I'm] piecing up them ideas together and putting them to songs. It really depends on what I’m feeling at the time.