Kendrick Lamar Talks Compton, Kanye West, Pulitzer Prize & More with ‘Vanity Fair’

Kendrick Lamar covers the latest issue of Vanity Fair. In a wide-ranging interview with veteran writer Lisa Robinson, Kung-Fu Kenny discusses everything from growing up in Compton and falling in love with poetry and rap music, to the Kanye West controversy and his groundbreaking Pulitzer Prize victory, to his obsession with discipline and his relentless desire to connect with people through his words.

This isn’t a made-for-headlines interview full of juicy quotes, but rather a personal and profound conversation that’s definitely worth your time. Click here to read the full story.

Check out highlights from the interview below…

On Kanye West:

I ask him how he feels about Kanye West’s statements about Trump and about slavery and, after a long pause, he says, “He has his own perspective, and he’s on this whole agree to disagree thing, and I would have this conversation with him personally if I want to.”

On the Pulitzer Prize:

“It was one of those things I heard about in school,” he says, “but I never thought I’d be a part of it. [When I heard I got it], I thought, to be recognized in an academic world… whoa, this thing really can take me above and beyond. It’s one of those things that should have happened with hip-hop a long time ago. It took a long time for people to embrace us—people outside of our community, our culture—to see this not just as vocal lyrics, but to see that this is really pain, this is really hurt, this is really true stories of our lives on wax. And now, for it to get the recognition that it deserves as a true art form, that’s not only great for myself, but it makes me feel good about hip-hop in general. Writers like Tupac, Jay Z, Rakim, Eminem, Q-Tip, Big Daddy Kane, Snoop . . . It lets me know that people are actually listening further than I expected. When I looked up at that man on the podium today, I just had countless pictures in my mind of my mother putting me in suits to go to school. Suit and tie, from the dollar store, from thrift shops, when I was a kid.”

On white fans using the n-word:

Kendrick is thoughtful for a long minute, then he says, “Let me put it to you in its simplest form. I’ve been on this earth for 30 years, and there’s been so many things a Caucasian person said I couldn’t do. Get good credit. Buy a house in an urban city. So many things—’you can’t do that’—whether it’s from afar or close up. So if I say this is my word, let me have this one word, please let me have that word.”

On Colin Kaepernick and the NFL:

We talk about the NFL and the national-anthem protests. He says he was a football fan, but now “I’m less enthused. It’s enraging; I think what Kap [Colin Kaepernick] is doing is honest, and it’s not just his truth, it’s our truth.”

On his love for Eminem:

I ask him how he delivers so many syllables and words in one line, with no wasted words and juxtapositions like “Halle Berry/Hallelujah” or a play on words like “Demo-crips and Re-blood-licans” or “I got power/poison/pain and joy inside my DNA.” “It comes from my love of hip-hop. Eminem is probably one of the best wordsmiths ever,” Kendrick says. “There’s a whole list of why, but just bending words. . . . The Marshall Mathers LP changed my life.”

On making it out of Compton:

Through his music, he’s taken on the role of spokesman for a neighborhood that goes way beyond Compton. I ask him, Why you? “I put that responsibility on myself. I knew from jump that I thought a little bit different, people respected me, and if I let myself down, I’d be letting my guys down. Fast-forward to 2018, I’m in a position where these guys have 10, 15, 20 years in prison, but I can go in there—and I do—and tell them that when they get out, you have a job. And my word stands.”

Photos by Annie Leibovitz

Related: Kendrick Lamar Accepts Pulitzer Prize Award In NYC


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