Kendrick covers Rolling Stone recent edition. Lamar, 30, is pleased with his recent commercial triumphs, but says it’s not the goal: “If I can make one person – or 10 million people – feel a certain type of euphoria in my music, that’s the whole point.”
You rapped about teenage dreams of “livin’ life like rappers do” – but your own life as a rapper has turned out to be pretty sedate. What are your vices at this point?My biggest vice is being addicted to the chase of what I’m doing. It turns into a vice when I shut off people that actually care for me, because I’m so indulged spreading this word. Being on that stage, knowing that you’re changing people’s lives, that’s a high. Sometimes, when you’re pressing so much to get something across to a stranger, you forget people that are closer to you. That’s a vice.
Do you ever feel like you should be having more fun?Everybody’s fun is different. Mine is not drinking. I drink casually, from time to time. I like to get people from my neighborhood, someone that’s fresh out of prison for five years, and see their faces when they go to New York, when they go out of the country. Shit, that’s fun for me. You see it through their eyes and you see ’em light up.
People treat you like you’re a saint or a monk, which must be weird.But the people closest to me really know who I am. They get all of the versions.
Is there maybe something of the monk about you, though?I guess that can go back to when I was a kid. It felt like I was always in my own head. I still got that nature. I’m always thinking. I’m always meditating on the present or the future.
Was there a sense that you were special as a kid?From what my family tells me, I carried myself as a man – that’s why they called me “Man Man.” It put a stigma on the idea of me reacting asa kid sometimes – I would hurt myself and they would expect me not to cry. That put a lot of responsibility on me, got me ready for the responsibility my fans put upon me. I ended up getting tough skin, too, even with criticism. My first time in the studio, [label chief] Top Dawg was like, “Man, that shit wack.” Other artists around couldn’t handle that. But it made me go back in the booth and go harder.
Where did all that maturity come from?It just came from being around older motherfuckers, man. I was seven years old playing tackle football with 14-year-olds. Anybody my older cousins was hanging with, that’s who I wanted to hang with. I’ve always been short [chuckles]. Everybody was always bigger and older than me. It gave me insight on people.
You’ve said you were one of the only ones among your friends with a dad around – and at the end of the new album you suggest that may have saved your life. How so?It taught me how to deal with [pauses] … emotions. Better than a lot of my peers. When you see kids doing things that the world calls harmful or a threat, it’s because they don’t know how to deal with their emotions. When you have a father in your life, you do something, he’ll look at you and say, “What the fuck is you doing?” Putting you in your place. Making you feel this small. That was a privilege for me. My peers, their mothers and grandmothers may have taught them the love and the care, but they couldn’t teach them that.
What makes you lose your temper?People that are around me that are energy-suckers or someone that is not driven the same way I’m driven. Can’t have that around me. Life is too short.
You have that line “Shit I’ve been through probably offend you,” and you do that rundown of “murder, conviction, burners. …”I can’t tell you the shit that I’ve been through without telling you the shit that I’ve been through. I’m gonna say, “I know murder, conviction, burners, boosters, burglars, dead, redemption, scholars, fathers dead.” I’m-a give you a breakdown of my life from the time I was born all the way till I was 21.
There’s a certain amount of trauma implicit in the stories you tell – you witnessed murders, even as a little kid. How much have you grappled with it as an adult?Well, you know, it was also just a lot of mothafuckin’ parties and a lot of humor, which sometimes blocks the fucked-up shit that I’ve seen. All of the funny shit with my crazy-ass uncles and my pops – he’s funny as fuck. My mom’s a crazy-as-fuck, funny, loving person. These things countered the negative shit, helped me to be able to understand tragedy, but not break from it.
What makes you laugh now?Shit, everything makes me laugh. Everything. This guy right here [points to his videographer]? He got something under his hat that makes me bust up laughing every time he takes it off. I didn’t even know God invented hairlines like that. That shit is terrible [laughs]! I always say that the best entertainers have to have the most wickedest sense of humor, to be able to take pain and change it into laughter.
Other than a few lyrics, you’ve been quiet about Donald Trump. Why?I mean, it’s like beating a dead horse. We already know what it is. Are we gonna keep talking about it or are we gonna take action? You just get to a point where you’re tired of talking about it. It weighs you down and it drains your energy when you’re speaking about something or someone that’s completely ridiculous. So, on and off the album, I took it upon myself to take action in my own community. On the record, I made an action to not speak about what’s going on in the world or the places they put us in. Speak on self; reflection of self first. ..