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Kendrick Lamar on XXL Magazine’s Winter 2015 Cover

Travis Shinn for XXL
Travis Shinn for XXL

Yes, it’s Kendrick Lamar on the cover of XXL’s Winter 2015 issue, a year after first appearing on the Winter 2014 issue in which he penned his own cover story. The issue picks up where K. Dot left off, a part two in which the Top Dawg Entertainment star MC writes his own words up once again, discussing life since dropping his celebrated but controversial sophomore album, To Pimp a Butterfly, in March. Last week, Kendrick dominated the 2016 Grammy nominations, earning 11, most for his work on the politically-charged LP, arguably the most talked about project in hip-hop this year.

In this issue of XXL (photos shot by Travis Shinn), Kendrick discusses the success and controversy of To Pimp a Butterfly, the pressures of being more than just a rapper, finding himself as an artist and a person amidst all the change and much more. Here are a few excerpts from his story:

1. “It’s funny because I ask other artists about their experience with success. I wanna know what happened to them. Did you feel how I feel? When did everything change for you? When did you start noticing the ways you were acting differently? Or when the people around you changed how they treated you? Or just, how did your world change? For me, the whole complete world changed within six months of good kid, m.A.A.d. city coming out. It wasn’t about the money change, although, that did happen, but it was like I stared seeing who I really was during that first run and learned more on the second. Either you notice who you are who are or what you ain’t pretty fast when you get fame.”

2. “The past few years or so has been very politically charged and controversial. From Trayvon Martin, to Eric Garner to Michael Brown and issues of police brutality and racism and for so many other reasons. All of it has really struck a nerve with me because when you experience things like that personally and you know the type of hardships and pain that it brings first-hand, it builds a certain rage in you. It brings back memories of when I’m 16 and the police come kicking the door in. They don’t care that I’m a little boy and they stumped me in my back two times and they dragged me out the house and have us all handcuffed. It brings back those memories. Memories of losing loved ones. It brings back some of the most painful memories and deepest thoughts of real life situations that I didn’t even want to address on good kid. Or wasn’t ready to. Rage is the perfect word for it.”

3. “But I think about how I’m two projects in and you have the world saying I’m the one. And I’m still trying to figure out who I even am. My little sister is 16, my little cousin is 20, my younger brother is 10, they all looking at me like that. When they friends around, they friends can’t walk pass me without asking a million questions about my lyrics. I can’t go to their schools without the same thing. Just having the amount of love and energy that these younger fans bring and how enthused they are from just talking with me about important topics. And I’m sitting there thinking, “These kids are really listening to me.” But why am I the one to get this opportunity? And how do I keep that from going to my head and not have an ego? How do I balance it out?”

4. I know I’m chosen. I know I’m a favorite. I know in my heart there’s a whole other energy and leadership side of me that I have probably run from my whole life. How much power do I want? How much can I handle? That’s the question I keep asking myself. ’Cause when you are a voice for the youth, nothing can stop you. The youth is what changes things. Can I lead that? Should I? I get confused because people are championing me to be that vocal point and it’s a challenge for me to be that because I have some fear of that type of power. This goes back to me being who I naturally am or who think that I am now, that 28-year-old kid that’s kind’ve a recluse. But 28 is old enough for me to figure out who I am and have that power at the same time, that’s the battle and it’s a trip.”

Also in the Winter 2015 issue, XXL travels to Minneapolis to celebrate Rhymesayers 20th anniversary in hip-hop, dissects the success of the most infectious song of the year “Watch Me (Whip Nae Nae,)” and catches up with Kevin Gates, Ty Dolla $ign, Bryson Tiller, Tory Lanez and much more. XXL’s Winter 2015 issue hits stands everywhere Dec. 22.

See Photos From Kendrick Lamar’s XXL Winter 2015 Cover Shoot

Watch the Behind of the Scenes of Kendrick Lamar’s XXL Winter 2015 Cover Shoot

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