Kendrick Lamar spoke about his personal and professional life, as well as the inextricable ties between them in a rare interview with The New York Times, explaining his artistic connection with Compton, lack of presence on social networks and the ambitious live show “Hood Beethoven”.
Posted online yesterday (December 27), most of the profile is devoted to Lamar’s creative dynamics with Dave Free, a childhood friend and longtime collaborator of Lamar, to whom the modern legend owes at least part of his success. While Lamar was starting his rap career, Free used his connections as a computer technician to connect him with the head of Top Dog Records. Free then joined the label as a full-time producer, and after leaving at the turn of the 2020s, he co-founded PGLang with Lamar.
About how he and Freeh remain connected to their roots—both grew up in Compton, California—Lamar told The New York Times: “It’s nature versus nurture. I was brought up in an environment where there is a lot of gangster mentality. This is a certain language, a certain jargon. How we walk. As we say.
“All the little nuances and conversations I have in Compton. I have this. It’s not going anywhere. That’s why I can enter any environment, any street environment and still be able to communicate even at such a high level as a son who never leaves. This is education.”
“But my nature is pure… And that’s why I rely too much on her cultivation, I won’t be able to be as expansive as I want to be. Many of these artists want to be expansive, but they are so attached to what the homebrew guys will think of them or their belief system. I know because I was there once, but I came out of that mentality as a teenager, as a teenager. These cats are still 30-40 years old, and they are still trying to maintain a certain image.
“And not to say that it’s bad. Everyone has their own journey. I was just lucky to have a group of guys around me who gave me the courage to feed on art, whether it was the street cats in my neighborhood, whether it was Dave who pushed me to become an artist, whether it was the Pinnacle of the projects, Nickerson Gardens. I’ve always been allowed to be myself.”
As for the notion of “being yourself,” Lamar later explained why he mostly remains inactive on social media. “My social networks are completely disconnected most of the time,” he admitted. “Because I know, like… I can easily smell my own [shit]. I know… like, I’m not one of those dudes who says, “Oh, yes, I know how good I am, but I also know why I’m so good, because God blessed me with a talent to perform on talent, and the moment you start to get lost in your ego, you you’re starting to fall.”
Lamar also spoke in detail about the “The Big Steppers Tour”, several concerts of which framed the conversations he and Free had with Jackson. The rapper noted that his “initial idea” for the stage production was “Beethoven’s Hood,” which he and his team would “combine… with dance and art” to develop a “contextualized theatrical performance.” He described it as “a theatrical hip-hop show, not a banal [expletive].”
“The Big Steppers Tour” ended earlier this month in Australia and New Zealand, followed by stages in North America, Europe and the UK. A stop in Paris received a five-star review from Fred Garratt-Stanley of NME, who wrote: “There is a human touch here that can sometimes be lost among creative genius… [The tour] represents a creative vision that would strike the thoughts of most ordinary mortals. It’s an amazing, moving display from the real great modern rap.”
The tour was held in support of Lamar’s fifth album “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers”, which arrived back in May. It received a five-star review from Kayann-Sian Williams of NME, who called it a “cathartic, heartbreaking autobiography”, while the album also ranked fifth on NME’s list of the best albums of 2022, and “N95” received a number. 14th place in the list of the 50 best songs of the year according to NME.
Since the release of the album, Lamar has been maintaining the hype around him with a constant stream of music videos. After releasing the “N95” video along with the album itself, he shared the clip for “We Cry Together” in September, then for “Rich Spirit” in November, and finally for “Count Me Out” earlier this month.