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Kendrick Lamar On TDE, His “Control” Verse And Fame From XXL’s Oct/Nov Cover Story

(Photo Credit: Jonathan Mannion)
(Photo Credit: Jonathan Mannion)

Your freestyle ability is phenomenal. I’ve seen it and thought, What this dude walks around with in his head, just floating around in his head, is problematic for most people. Because people do freestyle and obviously some of them are written. But you’re doing the ones where dudes are pulling out the words and things and it’s like, Okay, he’s actually making that shit up. Where does that come from? Is that something that you practice or is that something that’s just natural?
I think it comes from just being a kid back in the day and just really playing around with it. You know, we didn’t know how to write verses or songs back in the day, so we just used to say crazy stuff that we seen off the top of our heads, whether we were at the schoolyard, at the bleachers or at the house—me and my cousins. We just used to have fun with it. And I guess them moments built up to me actually having the skill to do it now. Looking at people that’s great at it—Kurupt is great at it, Supernatural is great at it. And I honor them because I know the ideas that are going on in their minds as they—[snaps fingers repeatedly]—come up with these words. It’s definitely a gift; definitely God’s gift.

“People wanted to say something anyway, period. They’re just looking for the right moment to. That’s how I look at it. That’s it.”

Speaking of Kurupt, why are you entertaining this “King of New York” talk from everybody? Why aren’t  you just saying it’s a Kurupt lyric? You said it, so you meant it—
I think I said everything I need to say on Peter Rosenberg, Hot 97. If people don’t get it from there, then I don’t feel [I need] to explain myself any more. I think they’ll run it down to the ground rather than me. You know, I just wrote a verse. I think everybody’s just taking it to the ground and don’t want to let it go. I spoke my piece on Hot 97. If people wanna take it further than there, that’s their entertainment. I’m on a whole ‘nother plateau of thinking now. That was just for that moment of writing a verse. That’s how I feel about it.

I’m trying to talk about you in terms of a student of art. You did this thing where you flipped Kurupt’s lyrics, but you’re not bringing that up. That’s the shit that makes everybody look really stupid. It just shows your intelligence; if they paid attention they would know [where those lines come from].
That’s exactly what it is. I feel like, when you’re a student of it and you have a sense of knowing what’s going on, you hold other people accountable at knowing what’s going on, too—people that you respect—so you feel like there’s no need to explain yourself. If I’m not gonna explain myself to people that I know, that understand it, I don’t feel like it’s needed to explain myself to people that’s totally oblivious to it. So I just keep my mouth quiet, be a man of few words, and let everybody else go crazy and figure it out themselves, whether it takes tomorrow or it takes ten years from now.

Not only in terms of you, but in terms of what Kurupt did, there’s this whole thing where you’re playing with opposites—you know: West Coast to East Coast; Muslims, pork; Popes, Muslims. I think people are getting upset around the King of New York thing and not even looking at it like it’s dope. Like, Are you even paying attention to what’s being done? You’re getting upset about one little thing and the whole artistry of that is—
Let me tell you something: This is my thing—this is what I found out through it all, from doing that verse. People wanted to say something anyway, period. They’re just looking for the right moment to. They want to say something anyway. That’s how I look at it. That’s it.

Okay. Say I’m a rapper and we’re on the same level. Say I’m one of the people you mention—no, say you mention me; I’m someone else, because I don’t want to bring anybody else into this—and I say, “You know what? Kendrick mentioned me, I’m gonna go at Kendrick in a song.” How do we decide who wins?
[Laughs] That’s a great one. I’m gonna have to think about that one: How do we decide who wins?  You talking as far as the artists? I don’t think it’s ever up to the artists who wins—it’s definitely up to the people every time.

But how? Because I’m hearing some responses and people are saying, “Oooh, he got at him.”
It would have to be an actual battle for someone to win. I didn’t make a response record to myself, or anybody else yet. You can’t win if somebody didn’t… I don’t even know how to explain it. [Laughs] There’s no winners.

But to some people it’s, “Oh, he killed him because he ain’t came back [at him].” There was a certain point where, Jay Z won because Nas didn’t respond. When “Takeover” came out and Nas didn’t respond for that whole time, it was like, “Oooh, Jay killed him.” 
Then Nas came back.

Then people said Nas killed him. I understand the fun of it. When it’s you guys [in Black Hippy] and you get in the room and you start going at each other because it’s fun and you’re getting better, there’s hype and there’s competition. But when you get to that stage when you’re doing it on record for the people, it becomes this other thing because it loses a lot of fun. To me, it lost a lot of the fun immediately when you heard what Papoose said, because that was a dude that was hurt. Like, Your shit is coming from a really mean place; this isn’t fun for you. Joell [Ortiz] went in, but Joell was like, This is coming from a fun place. And there’s no difference because you know both of them—you know Joell, you know Joe Budden, you know Papoose. It was just really interesting that he took it there. 
I mean, it’s 50/50—some people took it as fun, some people took it as opportunists. Huge opportunists. And more power to them.

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