Formerly known as K. Dot, the rapper has been on his grind, alongside Jay Rock and Top Dawg Entertainment, to place an end to the fake and present fans with “Human Music” that only real people with real lives can come to appreciate. His latest, The Kendrick Lamar EP, set the wheels in motion and the young spitter has maintained that push since.
HipHopWired: For people that don’t know, could you give a brief biography on Kendrick Lamar and who you are in the rap game and outside of it?
Kendrick Lamar: I represent Compton, California, that’s my birthplace. That’s me on the music, off the music. That’s me, I’m life, I’m everything that my city breathes. As far as family, as far as love, as far as hate, I’m that, period. I don’t like to really go in depth because I think that people just swear away from the whole concept of doing real music, I like to call what I do human music and that’s what I represent.
HipHopWired: You’re not really about doing what’s expected, like “Oh, he’s from the West Coast, he must be some type of banger.”
Kendrick Lamar: Yeah, I’ve been in the city my whole life. I’ve seen it all and done half of it. I got family, numbers of cousins and uncles that been in these streets and I’ve seen the mentality and the type out outcomes that come out from it. A lot of people don’t understand, I’m just trying to shine a new light, but it’s still there and I can’t just peel it all away because that shit is still in me.
HipHopWired: From saying that, with that past exit out, was that how you made the transition from K. Dot to Kendrick Lamar. I remember that you said you basically wanted to shut away everything, you wanted to make sure that you presented yourself not as a really am and I’m a real person with feelings and emotions that I do have.
Kendrick Lamar: Yeah, exactly. That’s where I came with the Kendrick Lamar piece, it was like an epiphany one morning, I said you know what, I’m going to give people me and why not start with my name first, that’s what my mother called me, Kendrick Lamar, moniker or an alias, just present yourself to the people for the music.
I’ve been rapping since I was 13, I got in the studio when I was 16. In the whole timeframe of that I was working on my niche and studying my craft, basically going through different albums and bettering my shit up. So that whole process phase was basically like a development, developing myself as an artist. A lot of cats, all they really knew was “Yeah that boy can rap, he got lyrics”, but I feel like there was a certain time in my career where I need to let people know who I really am. I have a story, like I said, what’s a man without a story? Pac had a story, BIG had a story, all the greats have a story, you can go from Michael Jackson to motherfucking Marvin Gaye, and I just feel like it was time for the people to understand me and know who I
HipHopWired: You said you woke up one morning and had an epiphany and that’s basically how it came about?
Kendrick Lamar: Yeah, when I was in (unknown), that’s how the whole process of the name change came about. Like I said, through this development stage and it feels like, at some point in time I was doing music and I almost became confined to what the industry and what the radio wanted me to do. When I actually released music it would be almost, I mean I would be rapping, on certain tracks I would be doing my shit, but other stuff I would be mostly pretending to what the radio wants, so I dropped some shit that sounded almost commercial or something that’s in the club. A lot of these records you hear on the Kendrick Lamar EP were actually ideas that I had in the archives but scared to release. It was like I was holding back all these records and all these emotions because I was trying for what the industry wants.
HipHopWired: Do you feel that’s a trap that a lot of artists fall into? Because I know when people make music, or rappers, usually the general idea is “Whatever situation I’m in right now, I’m trying to make sure I get out of this situation and I have a voice and I can express myself”, but then some people fall into the old “Well shit, let me do what the radio hypes” as opposed to presenting your own creativity. I know a lot of artists fall into that trap, so do you feel like at the beginning that’s what happened to you?
Kendrick Lamar: Exactly, that’s exactly what happened. I mean, you feed into whatever is right in front of your face. We’re only human and that’s what was in my face. Something that you hear on the radio all day and you’re hearing these spins all day and you’re going to these meetings and that what they want you come with, and you being a young dude, you ain’t really knowing the game until you really develop yourself and see the inside of this shit and the best way out is just to do you at the end of the day. At least you can say you did it your way, that’s my whole theme. If I don’t succeed at where I wanted to be at this shit, at least I know I didn’t compromise.
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I believe in this, I believe the music industry feeds off whatever is dope at the time. When I say that, if the streets and the people are saying that a record that say a motherfucker killing somebody 20 million, 30 million motherfucking times on a record, if it’s hot, guess what- that’s going to be the new style, it’s going on the motherfucking radio. Because it’s all about a dollar, these motherfuckers don’t care. So I’m going to stick to what I’m going to do and the people are going to love it and if they love it, it’s going to eventually reach mainstream or wherever it goes and eventually going to reach the masses on that type of level, because if the people say it’s hot- that’s what the industry is going to feed off of.
HipHopWired: Now with you speaking on the record labels and everything, with that type of mentality, is that what made you drift or had you do your business with TopDawg Entertainment, or what’s the story with behind TopDawg? Is that just a branch that you’re a part of or is that something that you gravitated towards?
Kendrick Lamar: That’s a branch I’ve been a part of since day one. I mean when I first hopped up in the booth at 16 or 17, matter of fact I put out a local mixtape on that local status at 16, then met with the CEO of TopDawg Entertainment off that mixtape at 17, I’m 22 now. I met with him and we’ve been moving ever since. I’ve been in a lot of situations where he walked me into these labels and I would be able to experience what these execs are saying and what they want. And even being in the situation with Rock being the first cat signed to TopDawg Ent, Jay Rock, just walking into labels with him and being able to see how these cats maneuver their business.
HipHopWired: I was also going to ask you about your relationship with Jay Rock, because I know that most people don’t about it, because I didn’t know and then I remember I was watching that video with Jay Rock and Lil Wayne and I was like “Oh that’s Kendrick Lamar right there”, but when I first peeped it I didn’t know because that was like a year or two ago, so how far does your relationship with him stretch back?
Kendrick Lamar: Our relationship stretches back to the moment I got into the studio and that’s the big coincidence right there, you know Compton and Watts are only 5 minutes away, I mean I went to a local high school in Compton by the name of Centennial High and Watts is right down the street, that’s where Jay Rock is from. I would always run (unknown) with him, seen him and said what up, but it just so happened that I decided to go to the studio, TopDawg’s studio, and he was in there, and the next day we started working since. He’s been my brother ever since then, on and off the music.
Follow the rapper on Twitter @Kendrick_Lamar