Kendrick Lamar Interview
Poised to be the West Coast’s knight in shining armor, Kendrick Lamar delivered his first performance at UCR on Saturday night. This year could also mean another first for Lamar; the release of his debut album. With Dr. Dre behind him, it seems that there is a lot of great music to come and a lot of pressure on the young artist. In an interview with the Highlander, Lamar speaks about his growth as an artist, his new single “The Recipe,” and what the future holds.
Highlander: You’re fresh off the Coachella Music Festival. Before that you were on the Club Paradise tour with Drake. What is it like to return back to a more humbled size audience such as tonight?
Kendrick Lamar: I mean, it’s the same thing. Just want to bring the same type of energy that I [brought] to [those] shows. I like smaller venues, actually. You know? It’s more intimate. I can look people dead in their eye. Like…20,000 [people] Drake’s pulling in and you can’t really see the people in their face.
Highlander: Do you feel like your skills as a performer have improved in these past few months?
KL: Definitely. Every show.
Highlander: What song do you like to perform the most?
KL: The song I like to perform the most would probably have to be “A.D.H.D.” Right now it’s “The Recipe!” “The Recipe” got a whole lot of energy. I always go back and forth.
Highlander: J. Cole performed here about two years ago and he was pretty much in the situation that you’re in now (ready to release his debut album). Given his recent success, what are you hoping your album achieves for you?
KL: I just hope it achieves—getting my message I’m trying to get across, really. And my whole story and the stories of the people in my city. “Good kid, mad city;” that’s our story.
Highlander: That’s not the certified title though (for the album)?
KL: It’s not certified. It’s just…when I say “good kid, mad city” that’s the a.k.a. for me and people who I grew up with trying to escape the influences and even [those] involved in the influences. I want that to get across as much as possible as well as our sound to see…you know, when the whole coast and the world hear this…let them know that it’s a new thing that’s going on that we’re starting. I’m sure they will follow.
Highlander: Can you give any insight as to the subject matter of your album?
KL: I don’t want to because I’d be giving it away.
Highlander: I have a feeling that it’s a concept album.
KL: Oh, every time; I’ll give you that. I’ll give you that.
Highlander: Because “Section.80” was kind of a concept album.
KL: Yeah, “Section.80” was a kind of a concept album. [They’re] two completely different albums though. A lot of people will be like, “it’s going to be better than ‘Section.80.’” I can’t…I don’t like saying it’s going to be better. It’s my best work but [they’re] two completely different things. I don’t like comparing what I’m doing now to “Section.80.” I want to keep elevating and challenging myself.
Highlander: Is it true that the song “HiiiPower” was inspired by past conversations with Ab-Soul?
KL: Punch, actually; the president of the company. We were on the plane talking. When it came about I started writing immediately on the plane because a lot of these people that we hear about all the time in our schooling, we don’t get the proper teaching on them. You just hear their names in the air but you don’t actually know what they’ve done for us today.
Highlander: A lot people have said that Black Hippy is the new N.W.A. Going with that notion, which N.W.A. member correlates with his respective Blacky Hippy member?
KL: Of course I’d be Easy (laughs). Compton. [Jay] Rock would fasho be either Ren or Cube just off the raw delivery. Damn, no. Matter of fact, [Schoolboy] Q would be Ren. Rock would be Cube. I guess [Ab] Soul would have to be Dre; the mastermind behind everything. And I’d be the spokesperson. That’s actually a good analogy to that. I should just start putting that in my interviews and saying that on Twitter. That’s tight. I’m going to make sure I give you some percentage on that.
Highlander: I’m glad you like it. Okay, so let’s talk about your most recent music to surface. You have “Cartoon and Cereal” and “The Recipe.” You’ve mentioned your hopes for a video for “Cartoon and Cereal,” have you gotten a chance to make that happen?
KL: Nah I haven’t. Not yet, not yet. I’m actually talking to a few cats.
Highlander: Secondly, I hear the “The Recipe” is actually a song you’ve been sitting on for about six months. What took so long to get that out to the public?
KL: I don’t really think it took long. I think it was just the process of us doing a whole lot of records after that.
Highlander: I know you’re all about timing.
KL: Yeah. I know a lot of people feel like “Oh, he’s with Dre. He ain’t going to put no music out”. Well there you have it. The album is definitely coming (laughs). Dre’s trying to get it off faster than I am. I’m like, “hold up, I need this.” I need to get this right. He understands it.
Highlander: I heard you’re almost pretty much set. If you wanted to go you could.
KL: Yeah I can.
Highlander: Okay, so the lyrics to “The Recipe:” “women, weed and weather” seem to echo Biggie’s “Goin Back to Cali” when he says: “Going back to Cali, strictly for the weather—
KL: —“women and the weed”.
Highlander: Is that a correlation?
KL: Yeah, it definitely is. It definitely is. I mean, I was just inspired by everybody always coming to our town and talking about how beautiful our women [are]. You know, we got the best sticky. I feel like it’s only right that we continue to represent that rather than these people coming out here, always talking about it and putting it in their songs. This is our coast and we got to continue to bless it like that.
Highlander: So there are a lot of temptations that come with the life of a college student. I’m sure the same can be said for the life of an artist. Do you have any advice for people trying to maintain sobriety? I know you have songs like “H.O.C.”
KL: Man, shit. I don’t man, that’s the toughest thing to do. When I made “H.O.C.” that was me reflecting on the first time I had got high with the homies. I was telling them that I don’t smoke but I [had] constantly seen them smoking so I wanted to do it. So I guess the best thing to do is not try to be around as many people doing it. ‘Cause when you [are] around people doing it that’s when temptation happens. I know Eminem personally; he said that he don’t want to be around that—if someone is across the room smoking he has to get out the room. If someone’s across the room drinking he has to get out the room. ‘Cause he don’t want to go back to that fucked up mind state [that] he was in when he was getting high and shit, trying to calm his nerves.
Highlander: So just try to stay away from it.
KL: Yeah, that’s the only way.
Interview with Musiq Soulchild
Musiq Soulchild is far from a new act. His career spans over a decade and he has an array of genre-blending hits in his repertoire. With his focus as an artist changing and a new book in the works, Musiq sat down with the Highlander just before his performance to share the experience that he’s picked up along the way.
Highlander: R & B, soul; these are genres that have been around for a fairly long time. How is it that artists such as you are able to reinvent these genres and make new meaning of them for each passing generation?
Musiq Soulchild: I don’t think it’s about reinventing anything. I just do what feels right to me—however, realistically speaking, within the parameters of what the record label will allow to come out. There is a lot to me that a lot of people have yet to even still be exposed to that I feel has been a great contribution to the legacy what we call soul music and R & B music. Me, personally, my mind is not “how can I reinvent this and how can I revamp that.” I don’t think that way. I just do my best to be consistent and it depends on how much support I get from you guys.
Highlander: So I hear that you’re making a transition more into a songwriter and producer.
MS: That’s something that I’ve always done. It just always hasn’t been honored and supported. Now, I’m taking matters in my own hands. I need for people to understand that this is what I do. Rather than artists coming to me and they say “Yo, I need you to do a feature,” it’s like, that’s cool, I don’t mind doing a feature but I would much rather help you with the writing. I would much rather help you with the music production because I have a lot of ideas that [are] in the vein that you’re going—I know what that’s about.
Highlander: Who are some artists you’ve been working with? Producing for? Writing for?
MS: Recently I was working with Bow Wow; we did a couple of songs. I’m working with Chrisette Michele. I’m working with an artist, her name is Avery Sunshine. She’s a wonderful artist. A few others. I don’t like to mention them because you never know how things are going to go. “I thought you said you were working with so and so.” Politics.
Highlander: Can you name any instruments you know how to play?
MS: I mess around. I’m not really fluent in any instrument but I can get to wherever I need to get to. But I’m better at articulating my ideas to musicians. I find camaraderie with musicians because they understand where I’m going… I need to focus though. I need to focus and really learn an instrument and be able to play at least one of them fluently.
Highlander: Do you feel like once you learn an instrument it will broaden your view on music?
MS: Not necessarily. George Clinton once said to me that “it’s awesome that you have an understanding and an appreciation and an affinity for music without all the technical stuff because that stuff can mess you up, really. If you’re not careful. You already know what you need to know—everything else will just come.” And I was like “Wow, that’s pretty profound coming from you, dude.” And he knows all of that stuff. And he comes from that stuff and he had to go in the opposite direction in order to accomplish what he’s accomplished. People he’s on stage with; they’re geniuses musically. Their ability and dexterity is phenomenal but they don’t really depend on that. They depend on feel. That’s the whole Funk philosophy: it’s a feeling thing. You can’t measure it; it just is. You either get it or you don’t. No one can teach you that and that, I think, is the ultimate goal that every musician is hoping to achieve; that limitlessness like there are no boundaries.
Highlander: Lastly, I heard that you’re writing a book pertaining to love and relationships.
MS: Yea, it’s called “143: Love According to Musiq.” 143 stands for “I love you” for those who don’t know. One is “I”, four for “love” and three for “you.”
Highlander: College is a breeding ground for all types of love and relationships—
MS: —yeah it is!
Highlander: What is your advice for college students?
MS: Wait! [laughs]. That’s my advice. Just chill! I know it’s all “fun and games,” you feel like you in love, you want to get married and everything—just chill! Wait a minute. You don’t even know what you want to do with your life first. Now you want to figure out what you want to do with somebody else’s life. Just chill, man. I know you [are] feeling all of these new feelings and it’s the best thing ever. Whatever man. Trust me. Just give it like five, 10 years. Your whole perspective on life is going to change.