Kendrick Lamar is making a play for the crown. Hailed as the best new rapper coming out the West Coast right now, this Dr Dre protégé and Black Hippy member isn’t placing limits on how far he can go. Wonderland catches up with him at Electric Ballroom, Camden.
What’s a UK audience like in comparison to the US?
Very intense energy… Unruly, I would call it.
You’ve been called the new king of West Coast gangster rap – feeling the pressure?
Not pressured, the world is just now catching on. It’s the music I’ve been doing, as long as I keep that in mind and continue what I’ve been doing, it’ll be sweet sellin’.
Where’s your inspiration from?
Life in general, family, other peoples’ experiences, just being out here in London, that’s inspiration.
You’ve also talked a lot about how your father was an inspiration to you. Would you have gone down the wrong path without your dad keeping you in line?
Oh yeah definitely, I would be reckless. I was the only one in the neighborhood with a father, I was the lucky one. If not, I’d be in prison, ‘cos the reputation of my family going to prison, and the reputation of the people I grew up with going to prison. My pops gave me that different light.
What do you think about the music that dominates the charts?
It’d be doper if more music was relatable, back in the day we had the Isley Brothers, their songs wouldn’t have a beat tempo sometimes. It had a nice cool little vibe. That’s why I can appreciate Adele so much, dominating the charts in a different way – in a form of music she loves, rather than just a party song.
You steer away from rapping about typical rap subjects like violence. Do you disrespect rappers who do?
Not at all, my music is just not all about it. I’ve seen violence my whole life, and to put it on record, it’s old to me, it’s blown out of proportion, I wanna talk about something different. I put those elements in because it is a lifestyle that I know. But always with a certain twist around it, otherwise it’s corny.
If you could change anything about the hip-hop scene what would it be?
What I will change is people being more original. As far as not doing some sound just because it is a “popular” flow or rhyme. In early hip-hop, you’d get shunned out the game for biting somebody’s style. They’d call it the sucker MC.
You were at Coachella when Snoop Dogg brought out the Tupac hologram. What was that like?
It was insane because you really felt the presence. You’d think the crowd would scream but it was dead silence.
Do you draw any inspiration from East Coast rappers, or purely West Coast?
I got on East Coast artists the moment I started writing, beause I wanted to see what peoples was liking about these guys. I wasn’t a fan of theirs until I started really listening to their music.
What part of their music was it that particularly inspired you?
Their lyricism, the art form of story telling. I got most of my influence from the west coast, having that aggression, carrying that flow. Mixing them up and perfecting that became Kendrick Lamar.
What’s your plan for the near future?
Making the best hip-hop album in the last twenty years of music. That’s my focus.
Kendrick Lamar’s debut album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, is out on 22 October.
Text: Christabel Reed