Kendrick Lamar has proven over and over again that he's not afraid to stand up against the best rappers in the business, having included Drake, TDE label mate Jay Rock and West Coast legend MC Eiht on his Interscope debut good kid, m.A.A.d city in 2012. So when K.Dot released his followup LP To Pimp A Butterfly late Sunday night many were quick to note that the only rap features were Snoop Dogg—whose contribution is more along the lines of a half-sung bridge than a verse—and North Carolina MC Rapsody, whose feature on "Complexion (A Zulu Love)" makes her the only other artist to rap on the album.

It's rarified air to be sure, but it's hardly something new for Rapsody to stand alongside some of the greats and more than hold her own. Her most recent project, last year's Beauty And The Beast, employed only Problem as a guest, but her previous mixtape, the DJ Drama-hosted She Got Game, saw Rap go toe to toe with MCs like Raekwon, Jay Electronica, Mac Miller, Wale, Common, Chance The Rapper, Ab-Soul and plenty more, spitting her truth and proving herself over and over again for those who say a female MC can't hang with the guys. Rapsody's connection with Kendrick dates back even further to studio sessions in 2011, which eventually resulted in the track "Rock The Bells" from her 2011 mixtape For Everything. This collaboration, while unexpected, was a long time coming.

The song, "Complexion (A Zulu Love)," focuses on the concept of colorism and breaking apart stereotypes about light vs. dark skin, reinforcing the idea that Kendrick put forth in the much-maligned first single "i" from To Pimp A Butterfly. While still basking in the glow of her verse making it onto Kendrick's LP, XXL spoke to Rapsody about the process of writing her verse, the spirit and energy of Kendrick Lamar and why she'll continue to be unapologetically herself as an artist. Where the homegirl Rapsody at? —Dan Rys

XXL: When did you first meet Kendrick?
Rapsody: The first time I met him in person was 2011. He had a show in North Carolina and he came by the studio just to hang out, you know, get some beats from 9th. We spent most of the day just chillin' and talking. Then he came back for another show and that was when we did "Rock The Bells" for a mixtape of mine. So I've known him for a while.

What is it about Kendrick that draws people to him?
I just think it's the type of person he is and the type of music he makes. Musically he's very honest, he's not apologetic in what he does. You can see how much energy and time he's put into his craft and perfecting it. And just the execution of it and the emotion, that really comes through in his music. Coupled with the honesty. People get attached to that; it's not fake, it's not fluff, it's real. He's the type of artist who gives me the type of feeling like when I first heard Lauryn Hill, [they have] that same energy and spirit about them. That's what I would think it is. [Ed. Note: Kendrick spoke about his relationship with Lauryn Hill in our Winter 2014 cover story, which you can read here.]

When Kendrick hit you up about doing a song for this album—knowing how huge of a project this was going to be for him—what was the first thing that went through your mind?
I think honestly my first reaction was to not overthink it. To not get caught up in how big of an album this is and outthink myself. I just wanted to do me and have fun but at the same time, whatever vision he had for this song, my contribution to it, I wanted to bring that to life and do it right. So I tried to not think about that part of it but stick to it just musically and just try to make something to contribute the best way I could. So that was my initial thought process in going into it. And then, you know, after we sent it back and I had a few days just to sit and think about it I told 9th like, "Man..." I hit [Kendrick] and I think it was like two days before he hit me back and had a chance to listen to it and told me he liked it or whatever. I don't know; I was excited. It made me think about my journey and all the steps to come to a point like this and be ready for moments like this. Me and 9th talked about it and he was like, "This is happening for you; it reminds me of when I got the Jay Z call [to work on The Black Album] and how I had to be prepared for the moment." It still hasn't hit me all the way. [Laughs]

How quickly did you write the verse?
I wrote it in pieces. I wrote a little bit, then I think I took a nap and I wrote a bit more. [Laughs] But it probably took an hour. When he sent the track I was in Toronto, I had a show, I didn't sleep that night. I had a 4 am flight to D.C. so that's why I got to the room, I called Kendrick that day, I listened to the beat a few times and I started writing on it. I took a nap before I crashed and then I went and finished it. And 9th came up that night and we went in and recorded it.

You mentioned that when you spoke to Kendrick he told you that the record was called "Complexion" and a bit about the concept of it. What was your first gut reaction when you heard what he was going for?
Man. On a personal level it just took me back. Two things hit me right off bat. I thought about when I was younger and how I felt; in the Black community there is a such thing as colorism, like if you're light-skinned you're better and you're dark-skinned you're not. That's a real conflict that lives. I suffered from that growing up when I was younger. My older sister tells me stories of things I used to say when I was way too young to remember.

And the second thing was, I have a niece—she's five now—but when she was three or four I would take her to Target and be like, "Pick out a Barbie doll. What one do you want?" And you know, she would never want the black Barbie doll, she would always say, "Oh, that's ugly, she's not pretty." And that's what that made me think about, too. It wasn't a hard concept to write about; you know kind of where he was going with it.

You've said you're just in the beginning stages of your sophomore album. Has this Kendrick album inspired you creatively in a different way?
One thing I can say is, for me, it gave me more confirmation of, just do what feels right. Don't get caught up in what everyone else is doing, just tell your story and just make great music. But listening to this, it also made me want to push what I do to another level. So to me, To Pimp A Butterfly sounds like Section.80 but taken two, three, four, five different levels up and that's what it inspires me to do. Just work harder, take yourself out of a box, don't overthink it at all and just put yourself in free states to reign. And wherever your emotion or wherever the music or wherever you're feeling, wherever that takes you, just to go there unapologetically all the way. And you know, just gave me more confirmation to continue walking my path.

What's next up for you?
I wanna release a video this week for "The Man," the re-release for Beauty And The Beast should be out next week. And other than that, I got some shows coming up, but I'm just enjoying this moment, supporting Kendrick and pushing the project. And then just working on this album.