Kendrick Lamar recently sat down with notable journalist Touré for an in-depth discussion for VICE, talking about everything from Barack Obama and Donald Trump to his experiences growing up in Compton and what he believes is his perfect verse.
The “HUMBLE.” rapper says he was in near disbelief when Donald Trump won the presidential election on November 8, 2016. He explains he went from feeling welcomed at the White House under former president Barack Obama to feeling ostracized, calling the shift a “complete mindfuck.”
“We all are baffled,” Lamar said about the election. “It is something that completely disregards our moral compass. The key differences [between Obama and Trump] are morals, dignity, principles, common sense. How can you follow someone who doesn’t know how to approach someone or speak to them kindly and with compassion and sensitivity? It’s just building up the fire in me. It builds the fire for me to keep pushing as hard as I want to push.”
The Compton native also recalled something the former president said to him that shook him to the core.
“The craziest thing he [Obama] said was, ‘Wow, how did we both get here?’ Blew my mind away,” he said. “I mean, it’s just a surreal moment when you have two black individuals, knowledgeable individuals, but who also come from these backgrounds where they say we’ll never touch ground inside these floors.”
“That’s what blows me up,” he continued. “Being in there and talking to him and seeing the type of intelligence that he has and the influence that he has, not only on me, but on my community. It just always takes me back to the idea of how far we have come along with this idea about how [much] further we can go. Just him being in office sparks the idea that us as a people, we can do anything that we want to do. And we have smarts and the brains and the intelligence to do it.”
For the past few years, the TDE cornerstone has been heralded as one of Hip Hop’s greatest voices and his fourth studio album, DAMN., has pulled the numbers to prove it, already going double platinum. He believes the song “FEAR.” contains his perfect verse, but at the same time stresses humility.
“It’s completely honest,” he said. “The first verse is everything that I feared from the time that I was seven years old. The second verse I was 17, in the third it’s everything I feared when I was 27. These verses are completely honest.”
He added, “Everything you write is not dope. Even if you’re a great writer, a bunch of the stuff you write is wack. But most people don’t have somebody around to be like, ‘That’s wack.’ I’ve been in that studio writing terrible verses, writing terrible hooks, with homeboys and friends and people that you trust telling you, ‘That’s garbage.’ I grew thick skin and got back in there and did it all over again. And then you eventually grow an ability to know when something is too far. I learnt how to challenge myself to take it to the next level.”
Later in the conversation, he also admitted he’s sober when he writes his music, something that may surprise some of his fans and contemporaries.
“I can sometimes cut the whole world off to write a verse that is perfect to me,” he said. “I could be in the studio all day and turn the phone off and completely zone out, because I feel like this was what I was chosen to do. And I can’t let anyone get in between that. I want to make the music in the most sober mind as possible, that way I know it’s me making it, not just the liquor!”
That focus helped him escape the rough environment he grew up in and he credits music for putting him on the right path.
“We used to have these successful people come around and tell us what’s good and what’s bad in the world, but from our perspective it didn’t mean shit to us, because you’re telling us all these positive things but when we walk outside and see somebody’s head get blown off, whatever you just said went out the window,” he admits. “And it just chips away at the confidence. It makes you feel belittled in the world.
“The more violence you’re exposed to as a kid, the more it chips away at you,” he added. “For the most part, the kids that I was around, it broke them. It broke them to say, ‘Fuck everything, I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do to survive.’ Before I let it chip away at me 100 percent, I was making my transition into music.”
For now, he wants to make sure he’s giving back to the world despite any personal issues.
“I’m still a human being, I’m still a person, I still have family, I still have my own personal problems,” he said. “But I have to give to the world. I think that’s my responsibility, [to learn] from my mistakes [and to spread] the knowledge that I have, the wisdom that I have. It’s not just a job or entertainment for me, this is what I have to offer to the world.”
Read the full interview here.