Gospel according to Kendrick Lamar: when the genius of Compton met Vanity Fair

Kendrick Lamar knows blues, jazz and soul; he mixes them in his music, that’s what makes it so amazing. His work is not only brilliant; it’s magic. —TONI MORRISON

Carrying the weight of a generation on one’s shoulders requires guts, courage and talent. Culturally, Kendrick Lamar is a compass — or rather a GPS — in these chaotic times. In itself, that’s worth a Pulitzer or any prize for excellence. —CHUCK D

I love everything about his music. When I listen to it, I can literally step into the shoes of a neighborhood kid who has to fight to get by, and at the same time [apprendre] all the lessons one draws from it as an adult. If I listen to the last verse of “Black Boy Fly” on good kid, mAd city, I know exactly what he means, because I was the kid he describes. —LEBRON JAMES

When I am given good news, it motivates me to go further. I don’t want to wallow in work. If most people are asked, ‘What would you do if you were given the Pulitzer Prize?’, they will say ‘take it easy’. The idea that I would have reached my peak at 30 does not appeal to me. —KENDRICK LAMAR

Today is May 30, 2018, Memorial Day. Seated at the Luger Steak House restaurant in Brooklyn, Kendrick Lamar order salmon. He wears a black baseball cap, white t-shirt, gray and blue pants. He and I are seated in the middle of a table of ten. On my right, Jay Rock, rapper, friend and Kendrick’s partner on Top Dawg Entertainment label, TDE. I see too Dave Freehis friend since the 3rd, manager, co-director of his incredible clips and president of TDE; Keaton SmithDave’s assistant; Derrick McCall, Kendrick’s assistant; photographer and videographer Chris Parsons ; 2TeezDirector of Security at TDE; Back Onethe Director General ; Ray Alba, Press officer. Except for Kendrick, who chose the fish, everyone orders cheeseburgers and steaks — doneness: medium.

We are brought plates of fries and spinach with cream. Despite the presence of other customers all around us, no one bothers us. Kendrick, who has a reputation for being as enigmatic as he is shy, relaxes as we talk — about music, basketball, government, taxes, rapping, prizes and awards. I tell him that the day before, LeBron James was seen at practice wearing a TDE t-shirt. We are talking about Madison Square Garden, where, the next day, Kendrick will go on stage for the first date of the TDE Championship Tour, which brings together the artists of the label. It’s one of the biggest venues in the world, he’s the headliner, and of course it’s sold out. We comment on the transformation of Harlem and Brooklyn, we say to ourselves that New York is no longer the city that never sleeps.

The conversation does not dry up when we launch Kendrick on the musical universe in which he grew up in Compton, California: we talk about Temptations (it owes its name to the singer of the group, Eddie Kendricks), Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, michael jackson, and gangsta rap — as for me, I play the veterans by recounting my interviews from the past (I started my career a good two decades before the birth of my interlocutors). I tell Kendrick to forget about the three times he was nominated for Best Album at the Grammys, and never won anything, and I congratulate him on his Pulitzer — a first for an artist who is not a classical or jazz musician. , a first for a rapper. The young man generally appears pensive and attentive, except when he bares his happy teeth to laugh or smile. These guys know each other by heart – especially Dave and Kendrick, who finish each other’s sentences.

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Gospel according to Kendrick Lamar: when the genius of Compton met Vanity Fair