Last weekend at Coachella, Kendrick Lamar sat down with Beats 1 Radio host Zane Lowe for his first interview since releasing DAMN. The full interview has now surfaced online, and you can watch it below.
Over the course of their 45-minute conversation, the pair touched on a variety of topics, including Lamar’s competitive spirit, his writing process, and his outside influences. They also break down many of the tracks on DAMN., as well as rumors of an Easter Day sequel to DAMN. that never came to be.
Early on in the interview, Lowe noted the critical reception DAMN. has received, which Lamar responded to by admitting he tries to avoid reading reviews of his music. “As soon as I hit mastering, I just turn that thing in and try not to listen to it or even see the actual response for a while,” he explained. “I’ve been attached to this piece of art for the last year and some change. I’ve indulged so much I don’t even want to hear it. I just want to give it to the people and let them take it and live with it and breathe it. Then when I come back on that stage, that’s when I want to feel it. That’s when I want to see it, that’s when I want to see your reaction. I can’t get that same reaction on Internet, through some comments. When I go out there and I see people just really taking these songs to heart, that’s the reaction.”
On his writing process and comparisons to Eminem, Lamar responded, “I just love words. I love how to bend them, I love how to break them, I love how to twist them, turn them, make them couplets … That shows the true craft in your sportsmanship.” He added that, “It’s all acrobatics.”
On his strive for excellence and his desire to be known as the greatest rapper alive, Lamar said, “I got to. I’m so passionate about hip-hop. I love it to a point, I can’t even describe it. And when I heard these artists say they’re the best coming up, I said I’m not doing it to have a good song, or one good rap, or a good hook, or a good bridge, I want to keep doing it every time. And to keep doing it every time, you have to challenge yourself and confirm to yourself that you’re the best. No one can take that away from me, period.”
“I want to hold myself high on that same pedestal, 10, 15 years from now,” he said, adding, “This is culture, this isn’t something you just play with. Get a few dollars and get out. People live their lives to this music, period. You can’t play this, you have to take consideration into what you write down on that paper, and if you’re not doing it to say the most impactful shit, or doing it to be the best you can be for the listener to live their daily life, then what are we doing here?”
Lamar said he worked on DAMN. for over a year. Of the one-word track titles, Lamar explained that “the music came before” he named any of the songs. Instead, he chose a word found in the lyrics that best “represented the idea of the song.”
In regards to Donald Trump’s presidency, Lamar wanted DAMN. to be “more self-evaluation and discipline, because what’s going on now, we’re not focusing on him. What’s going on now—we focusing on self. You see real different nationalities and cultures are coming together and actually standing up for themselves and I think that’s a pure reflection of this record prior to this even happening prior to even coming out. We say OK we can’t control—now we see we can control what’s going on out there. It was a whole ‘nother power that be so what we can now is we can start coming together and figuring out our own problems and home solutions. You know I think, I believe, I know, this is what this album reflects.”
Several times on DAMN., Lamar references a FOX News segment in which Geraldo Rivera says hip-hop has done “more damage” than racism. Asked specifically of his thoughts on the segment, Lamar told Lowe, “I thought it was a trip, click-bait. I represent my people and the culture the right way. To attack my character, I wasn’t for it.”
Kendrick also spoke about meeting with President Obama and what he took away from it. “The idea that it’s going to take more than eight years to change,” he explained. “[Obama] says, ‘Change don’t start when I’m here. It starts once we leave the space we’re in.’ Subconsciously, that goes to the idea of me self-evaluating my own personal thoughts, the way I think, what I’m gonna take from this meeting and do on the outside. In this moment of time, I have to think further.”