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Kendrick Lamar gets deep and talks meanings and messages in the latest issue of Mass Appeal. While out shooting the “King Kunta” video in his hometown of Compton and taking time out in Los Angeles, Kendrick spoke at-length with writer Gabriel Alvarez about a variety of subjects relating to his recent album, community change, rebellion, socio-political issues and more. While Kendrick has been guarded in recent interviews when it comes to the specific meanings of songs on his recent album, he chooses to pull back the curtain on some of his recent tracks during the Q&A, breaking down efforts such as “These Walls.” The To Pimp a Butterfly lyricist even reveals what TPAB cut his idol Tupac would fit best on. You can check out some select quotes from the interview below. You can check out the full piece over at Mass Appeal.
Do you think a violent rebellion like Pac was suggesting in the interview soundbites at the end of TPAB could happen?
Once the true rebellion happens, there’s no going back. It’s like war with two enemy ’hoods; it basically never ends. And I think it’s enough frustration in the world now if something crack off on a major, major, major scale, it’s gonna be destruction. I’m talkin’ ’bout through the whole world. This is the Rapture. This is God comin’ back and you’re hearin’ the horns and the skies crackin’ open. You dig what I’m sayin’? They puttin’ chips in people’s bodies now, y’know? So with that being said, hopefully it’s more about us as people sayin’, “Enough is enough,” and educating the next man with some wisdom that I have or that you have, and makin’ it a collabo thing where we can all benefit from it in a positive way. Rather than takin’ it out in full rage, like we want to — like I want to, like he want to, like she want to. If we can deal with it like that, then that’ll be a plus on our end. But, if we decide we don’t, then you know what drama that brings.
If Pac was alive, what song would you have wanted him to kick a verse on?
You know when the beat switches on “The Blacker The Berry”? I’d have him go off over that, and tone it all the way down, but in his aggressive tone, man. And give it more of a sincere attribute to the song because the song is so aggressive. But you know when he comes on, his spirit is just so warm, he’s gonna speak nothing but the truth. So when that beat breaks down into that, and then goes into “You Ain’t Gotta Lie,” that’s all him.
Could you break down “These Walls”? You go from speaking about sugar walls to prison walls, and sending a message to that one dude from “Sing About Me.”
It’s actually a theme about no matter how much money you have, no matter how much success you have, you’re always human. You always feel the same emotions. Whether it’s love or whether it’s hate. Or in this case, whether you’re being spiteful or being vengeful in some type of way. I think that last verse represents a lot of my potnas that go through any which way they can to get back at their enemy. Someway, somehow, just to put that hatred back in your heart.
When you say “Compton to Congress…” on “Hood Politics” is there any deeper meaning to that? You’re not thinking of maybe one day, you know…
[Smiles] Nothing is a coincidence. [Laughs] Put it to you that way. Them words are no coincidence. They were well thought out.
You’ve really taken what fans say to heart, as evidenced on “Mortal Man.” But you also ask those people who look to you for inspiration and guidance: “How many leaders you said you needed then left ’em for dead?”
What I like most about “Mortal Man” is how it’s set up. How it plays coming out of “i.” Because the end [of “i”] is stressing leadership. [The fight breaks out, and I’m saying], “I’m on stage, y’all. Listen to me. Everybody get in position. We don’t have to be doin’ none of this.” You know what I mean? Then it goes into “Mortal Man,” [and] I’m questioning that same leadership. [It’s] me questioning myself. I can make a song like “i,” but are the homies that I’m performing it for gonna listen to it? So it still brings back the insecurity. So a song like “Mortal Man” [is] questioning not only myself, but questioning what has happened to the past leaders that’s put way more work in and touched way more hearts than I have.
What do you think is the future of your generation?
I think the future of my generation is entrepreneurs times a hundred. We’ll probably be one of the most prosperous generations in history. Not only do we have the belief, but we have the work ethic to go out there and get it. We are very independent. We are very confident in our own identity, which is a great thing. Because what this [generation] has is more people starting their own business and not being confined to what [an existing] company has to offer [them]. But, on the other hand, our belief system is gonna play a major part in it. Our belief system is not the way how my parents were, how my grandparents were, and the more and more time goes on, we lose that thought or idea of God and energy. So what happens is we stop caring for people and we stop honoring and respecting people, you feel me? So I think once we grab that aspect back into my generation we’re gonna be alright.