All Hail King Kendrick Lamar! Rolling Stone has crowned TDE’s top dawg as the Greatest Rapper Alive in their 129th issue. Kendrick Lamar graced the cover of Rolling Stone magazine and sat down with Brian Hiatt for an exclusive interview. In the interview, Ku Fu Kenny pulls no punches addressing rappers with ghostwriters claiming to be the “best rapper alive”.
On “ELEMENT.” you make that funny distinction between “black artists and wack artists.” What, to you, defines a wack artist?
I love that question. How would I define a wack artist? A wack artist uses other people’s music for their approval. We’re talking about someone that is scared to make their own voice, chases somebody else’s success and their thing, but runs away from their own thing. That’s what keeps the game watered-down. Everybody’s not going to be able to be a Kendrick Lamar. I’m not telling you to rap like me. Be you. Simple as that. I watch a lot of good artists go down like that because you’re so focused on what numbers this guy has done, and it dampers your own creativity. Which ultimately dampers the listener, because at the end of the day, it’s not for us. It’s for the person driving to their 9-to-5 that don’t feel like they wanna go to work that morning.
Is it ever OK for a rapper to have a ghostwriter? You’ve obviously written verses for Dr. Dre yourself.
It depends on what arena you’re putting yourself in. I called myself the best rapper. I cannot call myself the best rapper if I have a ghostwriter. If you’re saying you’re a different type of artist and you don’t really care about the art form of being the best rapper, then so be it. Make great music. But the title, it won’t be there.
If it turned out that you somehow had a ghostwriter, people would really want to meet that guy.
[Laughs] You’re right.
How did “HUMBLE.” start?
It was the beat first, actually. [Producer] Mike Will sent the beat over. All I could think of was [Marley Marl’s] “The Symphony” and the earliest moments of hip-hop, where it’s complex simplicity, but it’s also somebody making moves. That beat feels like my generation, right now. The first thing that came to my head was, “Be humble.”
Who are you talking to in the chorus – yourself?
Definitely. It’s the ego. When you look at the song titles on this album, these are all my emotions and all my self-expressions of who I am. That’s why I did a song like that, where I just don’t give a fuck, or I’m telling the listener, “You can’t fuck with me.” But ultimately, I’m looking in the mirror.
What’s your favorite Drake song?
Favorite Drake song [chuckles]. I got a lot of favorite Drake songs. Can’t name one off the back. … He has plenty.
You’ve spoken of struggling with depression. Is that still with you?
Um, as of now, I’m cool. I won’t say I’m content. I don’t want that word. I’m not satisfied yet. But as far as having a sense of personal stress to that level, no. That’s a good space because I can now listen to my listeners’ struggles and help them.
Check out the full interview here.