Pitchfork: You recently faced a backlash after saying that you don’t vote because ”there’s something else out there pushing the buttons.” How did you interpret that whole situation?
Kendrick Lamar: I’m a person of my own opinions, that’s how I was raised. I speak what I feel. The world is bigger than us, and I’m the only person that said that. A lot of people feel the same way but they’re scared to talk. They’re really scared of the truth— they only want half of the truth. I’ve been living like that— forever in fear— but I know what to say and how to say it now. I ain’t scared of myself. Y’all may be scared; I’m not scared.
Pitchfork: Do you think people in general are scared of comments like that?
KL: Nobody likes to mix the spiritual world with politics. I mean, I’m all for Obama. Gotta be. I respect the fact that our ancestors put us in the forefront to have the power to do what we do. But I’m going through something within myself spiritually that doesn’t mix with politics or the world right now. I want kids to go out there and experience voting— you gotta do that. But just know what you’re voting for and who you’re voting for in your heart, and not just because of who wants you do it a certain way.
Pitchfork: To a lot of people, your friendship with Lady Gaga is kind of weird, but I imagine it doesn’t feel that way to you.
KL: Yeah, it’s cool. She’s a regular person. We became friends off of the genuine love for the music. She just hit my phone one day and said that she had a respect for the hip-hop that I was doing, that it wasn’t like anything she heard on the radio. Then chemistry collided from there. What I respect about her more than anything is her originality. She’s not afraid to be herself, and that’s the same thing that Black Hippy represents.
Pitchfork: What was it like recording with her?
KL: Genius. She’s over-the-top creative. You have to be in a whole other world to actually think the way she thinks. We did two or three records together, we’ll figure it out where they’re going to go.
Pitchfork: You’ve worked with a diverse array of rappers, too, from Drake to Gunplay to Dr. Dre. How do you choose them?
KL: The thing about hip-hop is they always want to classify you as one particular artist, but hip-hop is about going outside the box and expressing yourself however you want to. A lot of people thought the Gunplay track wasn’t going to work, but I’m a visionary when I see people— I’m not doing it just because of the features, I actually hear something in my head, and then I execute it the same way I hear it.
Pitchfork: Do you feel like you’re expected to work with certain people?
KL: People place me with certain crews and individuals but, if it’s expected, that’d be the reason why I won’t work with them. Just to be in my own lane. That’s why I go have a Gaga record, because it’s not easy to get one. She has to like your music.
Pitchfork: Is the cover photo from your childhood?
KL: Yeah, it’s from like ‘92. My childhood was fun, man. Falling off bikes, doing backflips. They let me run free.
Pitchfork: What about the involvement of other Black Hippy members on the album?
KL: We’ve done a bunch of records together— we’re trying to see which ones stick to the story. I’m not huge on just doing a record because someone’s my friend or he’s in the group, it’s still got to make sense. Jay Rock wasn’t on Section 80; the songs we did just didn’t feel right. I’m not going to force a record.
Pitchfork: We’re in Chicago, and the biggest rap story here this year is Chief Keef. Lupe Fiasco recently spoke out about being scared of the violent culture Keef represents to him— do you have any thoughts about that issue?
KL: I’m younger than Lupe, so I would be more likely understand Keef. Not to say Lupe doesn’t understand it, but I wasn’t far away from that world that Chief was in. That’s his lifestyle and that’s all he knows right now. The world gotta accept that, and the industry gotta accept that. He’s being real with himself— he can’t just fake it just because he’s in the industry now. It’s not gonna seem organic.
Pitchfork: As opposed to someone like Keef, you make reference in your music to gangs, but it’s not precisely what your music is about. How did you end up going that way?
KL: It was just about growing as a person and becoming more of an adult. Now, I want more of a neutral light for everybody to live in and be happy and be successful.
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