One listen to good kid, m.A.A.d city and you can tell that Kendrick Lamar is an extremely introspective man. But that side of him runs deeper than fans might know, as a recent New York Times interview proves. Writer Lizzy Goodman accompanied Lamar for a time during his stint as the opener for Kanye West’s Yeezus tour, often hanging out in his dressing room and on his tour bus as his entourage protected him from unfamiliar hangers-on. It’s in the middle of one of those crowds that Lamar says, “As a kid, I used to stutter. I think that’s why I put my energy into making music. That’s how I get my thoughts out, instead of being crazy all the time.”
Speaking of his childhood, the 27-year-old also opens up about his upbringing in Compton, where his parents moved to from Chicago. “My pop did what he had to do,” Lamar says of his father, without saying what he did for a living. He then discusses a younger brother who was doing time. “Everybody that I touched physically, they ended up dead or in jail,” he says. “I remember him saying, like, he wanted to be the hardest gang member; that’s what he wanted to be.”
One of the best quotes comes about his famously inflammatory “Control” verse and why he feels rap rivalries are a necessity: “If my edge is dull, my sword is dull, and I don’t want to fight another guy whose sword is dull. If you’ve got two steel swords going back and forth hitting each other, what’s gonna happen? Both of them are going to get sharper. Everybody that’s in the industry has lost their edge. There’s really no aggression … Everything is so soft.”
The whole interview is well worth a read, as Lamar also talks about how West convinced him to be the opening act by buying Lamar a studio for his tour bus; how his girlfriend, Whitney Alford, keeps him in line; the pressures of life on the road and producing a follow-up to good kid; and much more.