Rick Rubin Interviews Kendrick Lamar

The legendary Rick Rubin interviewed kendrick Lamar for GQ Style's holiday issue which the Compton rapper covers. The producer and Def Jam founder asked Kendrick questions about his writing process, his early influences, meditation and more.

Rick Rubin: What were the inspirations along the way for you—musically, lyrically, or philosophically—that got you to this stage?
Kendrick Lamar: Oh, man. First off would have to be how I was raised. The environment. My father being a complete realist, just in the streets. And my mother being a dreamer. It starts there first, before I even heard any type of melody or lyric. That's just DNA. It's always the yin and the yang, the good versus the evil. And that pushed me toward the music that I love to listen to. You know, Tupac, Biggie, Jay. Your usual suspects. These were the people that was played in my household.
Was the music playing in your house your choice of music, or was it the music your parents were listening to?
Definitely my parents. My parents were fairly young in the city of Compton. So the things that they played—you know, that was the hip crowd. So I was being exposed to all these ideas, from Big Daddy Kane to Eazy-E to the Bay Area—Too Short, E-40—you know, back to Marvin Gaye and the Isley Brothers. This field of music just broadened my ideas to come. We never would've thought in a million years that I'd be doing it.

This is kind of a funny thing, because I'm going to ask you to project into the future here. But do you feel like Butterfly—what do you refer to it as?
Butterfly, To Pimp a Butterfly. It's a few things.
Okay, I thought maybe To Pimp. But let's say the second album. Do you feel like that's more indicative of where things will be in the future? Or is it more like, based on the difference between the first album and the second album, we should continue to expect it to change?
That's a great question.
It may not even be possible to answer, but tell me your best thoughts.
My best thoughts… The best answer I can give you, um… That was me then.
Not to say that it wouldn't be continuous. It'll always have some type of DNA in my music. But me, as a person, I grow. I'm like a chameleon. You know? That is a gift and a curse for me. But more so a gift, because it never puts me in a box. And my ability to express and still make the connection wherever I go, that is my high point. That's something I pride myself off of.
I think that what's infectious about your music—the reason other people connect—is they feel your connection to it. Probably a lot of your fans might not have been into jazz. But they feel your connection to it, and it inspires them to open themselves to hear new music that they might not have heard.
We've been told to call the consumers dumb, but they're not. They know when it's real. And that's something that I always understood—just from being a fan myself.

Let's talk about “Alright” for a second. It has become our generation's protest song.
Yeah, yeah.
When you wrote it, did you have that in mind? Did you think of it as a protest song?
No. You know what? I was sitting on that record for about six months. The beat's Pharrell.And between my guy Sam Taylor and Pharrell, they would always be like, Did you do it? When you gonna do it? I knew it was a great record—I just was trying to find the space to approach it. I mean, the beat sounds fun, but there's something else inside of them chords that Pharrell put down that feels like—it can be more of a statement rather than a tune. So with Pharrell and Sam asking me—Am I gonna rock on it? When I'm gonna rock on it?—it put the pressure on me to challenge myself. To actually think and focus on something that could be a staple in hip-hop. And eventually, I came across it. Eventually, I found the right words. You know, it was a lot going on, and still, to this day, it's a lot going on. And I wanted to approach it as more uplifting—but aggressive. Not playing the victim, but still having thatWe strong, you know?
So you had the beat for six months, but you didn't have any words?
I didn't have any words. P knew that that record was special. Sam knew that the record was special. They probably knew it before I even had a clue. So I'm glad that they put that pressure on me to challenge myself. 'Cause sometimes, as a writer, you can have that writer's block. And when you like a sound or an instrumental, you want to approach it the right way. So you sit on it.
Yeah, the timing is not really in our control. You can't say, I got this track I like, so I'm gonna write to it now. It comes when it's supposed to come. You just have to be open to it and ready for it when it comes.
Exactly. I remember hitting P on a text like, Man, I got the lyrics. And typing the lyrics to him. He's like, That's it.
Rick Rubin Interviews Kendrick Lamar Rick Rubin Interviews Kendrick Lamar Reviewed by King Nel on 8:19:00 PM Rating: 5
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