The GQ+A: Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick is one of the most popular names in Hip Hop today and is truely moving the genre in a new direction. Although there are several interviews with the Compton emcee floating around the internet, I feel GQ's interview the below shows great insight into who Kendrick is as an artist. 

Walking through a crowd of people with Kendrick Lamar is, well, different. He's a celebrity, and people ask for pictures. They comment on how short he is in real life, try to hand off their personal mixtapes, and intrepid groupies still offer—read: throw—the things that groupies offer. In that regard, Kendrick's just like any of-the-moment hitboy. But the first thing people say, even the groupies, is how much they loved his album, good kid, m.A.A.d city. They quote lyrics, compliment his flow, and, of course, finish every sentence with Kendrick's trademark, "ya, bish." The Compton-raised introvert is a celebrity for the right reasons, and we love it.

GQ: First question: did your dad ever get his Domino's?
Kendrick Lamar: [Laughs] Nah.

GQ: Were those real scenarios?
Kendrick Lamar: All of those were real scenarios. The fact that I took my mother's car, that was real life. Being in a situation where you're young and a teenager and you don't really have respect for authority. You respect them as your mother and father, but sometimes when they lay some rules down, you break them. And that was one of those situations. Taking that car got me in a whole lot of different situations as a teen, that I tell in the stories. That's what that concept really represents: abusing the authority of losing his Domino's, losing his jewelry, anything else that he possessed that I felt like taking at the time.

GQ: I feel like rappers from LA have a bit of an inferiority complex. They have to represent the resurgence of West Coast hip-hop from the moment they get a little buzz. Did you feel that?
Kendrick Lamar: You know, it's crazy. From the moment I started writing raps, I was always aware of the pressure. I always wanted to live up to how huge Snoop got, how huge Dre got, how huge Pac got. I was always aware. But by the time I got [the pressure], it was a whole new story. When you get that attention, you really have to execute. That pressure turned into a little bit more excitement, a little more dedication in the studio.

GQ: How important has Dre been to you as far as a personal relationship and mentorship?
Kendrick Lamar: He told me all the mistakes I shouldn't make in this business, being a new artist. I'm in a position where a lot of dollars will be thrown my way, and it's up to me to maintain. One of the first things he told me was that anybody "can get a mansion." He said, "You can get it. It's nothing to get. You can get it tomorrow. The best thing to do is maintain it—that's the hardest thing. Keeping it."

GQ: In any of that advice, was he ever like, "Oh, and by the way, put your name on some headphones. That shit'll make you millions?"
Kendrick Lamar: [Laughs] No, no, he always told me that he ventured out beyond the music though.

GQ: Is Sherane a real person? Is her name Sherane?
Kendrick Lamar: Yeah, but her real name's not Sherane.

GQ: What is Sherane doing right now?
Kendrick Lamar: I have no idea. Hopefully she's doing good, you know, but karma is a bitch.

GQ: I assume she knows that you're doing, ya know, OK. Does that drive you any?
Kendrick Lamar: They watch the smallest things, from the YouTube video with 500 hits to the number-one single and gold album. The worst part of success is, to me, adapting to it. It's scary. Andre 3000 said, "I hated all the attention, so I ran from it." I think about that. The last six months, I've been going crazy, thinking, "Is it supposed to be like this?" Because when the cameras are on and the people are watching, that can make a person want to shut down from everything and everybody.

GQ: Who are the artists that you'd love to go toe-to-toe with, lyrically?
Kendrick Lamar: Jay-Z, Nas, Eminem, Rakim, Kurupt...

GQ: Right now, where do you think you stack up in that group?
Kendrick Lamar: I'm on their toes, for sure. I remember when I was a young buck listening to them, I was thirteen or fourteen going back to the albums and how crazy they were. They just have a little more experience than me. I wouldn't get in the studio with them and be nervous, I'll put it to you that way. I wouldn't be nervous.

GQ: The album is out and praised. What's next?
Kendrick Lamar: Visuals... When I call it a short film, I don't just call it that for the sake of the album. So that's a hint.

GQ: Are you going to act in it, star in it, direct it?
Kendrick Lamar: Directing for sure. I haven't really thought about starring in it... I can, because it is me and my life.

GQ: Let's say you weren't going to star in it and you could have anyone in the world, who would you have play yourself?
Kendrick Lamar: Anyone in the world? It would have to be somebody... there's one kid on The Wire, Tristan Wilds [who played Mike Lee].

GQ: Who would you have play your mom?
Kendrick Lamar: I probably get Taraji Henson.

GQ: Okay, okay. Sharane?
Kendrick Lamar: I would love to see Rihanna in my movie [laughs]. Looking at this cover right here, man.

GQ: How do you get better at rapping?
Kendrick Lamar: You really have to travel. I could have told you, "You've got to write every day." Of course you've got to do that. But you really have to get out and see different things. I can't stay in Compton. Things get redundant after a while; that's not the lifestyle any more. You've got to get out and travel.

GQ: People love the album and a lot has been written about it. Has anyone misconstrued parts of it?
Kendrick Lamar: A few people think that these stories are just different events throughout my whole life. That story is just one day, one full day. Some things that always happened throughout the days and throughout the weeks, but that was just one particular day that really turned my whole life around and I understood what I should be doing is something positive, which is music right now. They don't know me yet. They might think they know me, but they don't.