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Kendrick Lamar Says Going to Africa Broadened His Approach to Art

Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Kendrick Lamar tends to limit himself on how many interviews he does, as well as who he does them with, but Interview Magazine gave Dave Chappelle the opportunity to have a lengthy conversation with him. The veteran comedian got to interview the DAMN. rapper for the outlet, where they had a candid conversation about Kendrick’s career, his growth as an artist and much more.

In the conversation, the two beloved entertainers talk about Kendrick finally meeting success now that he is a major mainstream act. The Chappelle’s Show host even makes a reference to quotes from the late Tupac speaking on feeling out of place when reaching fame, asking K. Dot if he has experienced any “altitude sickness” in his own journey.

“I think I’m still growing. The more people I meet, the more cultures I start to embrace, the more people I open myself up to—it’s a growing process I’m excited about,” K. Dot explains. “But it’s also a challenge for me, to be at this level and still be able to connect with somebody who’s living that everyday life. At first it was something I struggled with, because everything was moving so fast. I didn’t know how to digest it. The best thing I did was go back to the city of Compton, to touch the people who I grew up with and tell them the stories of the people I met around the world. Making To Pimp a Butterfly was me navigating those experiences. I went to Africa and I was like, “This is something I can enjoy and something I can challenge myself with.”

One of the highlights of the interview comes when Dave brings up the “Humble” MC’s trip to Africa, asking if his visit was his “I made it” moment for his career. Kendrick says that being in the motherland is what broadened his perspective on how to convey his own art.

“I went to South Africa—Durban, Cape Town, Johannesburg—and those were definitely the “I’ve arrived” shows. Outside of the money, the success, the accolades,” Kendrick details. “This is a place that we, in urban communities, never dream of. We never dream of Africa. Like, “Damn, this is the motherland.” You feel it as soon as you touch down. That moment changed my whole perspective on how to convey my art.”

At one point, Chappelle speaks on an argument he’s had with Mos Def about whether people with platforms have a responsibility to other people. He then asks Kendrick to share what he feels his own mission statement is as an artist.

“As I’ve grown as an artist, I’ve learned that my mission statement is really self-expression.” he states. “I don’t want anybody to classify my music. I want them to say, “This is somebody who’s recognizing his true feelings, his true emotions, ideas, thoughts, opinions, and views on the world, all on one record.” I want people to recognize that and to take it and apply it to their own lives. You know what I’m saying? The more and more I get out and talk to different people, I realize they appreciate that—me being unapologetic in whatever views and approach I have.”

Being that Kendrick fans are notorious for the theories they create surrounding the rapper’s music over the years, Chappelle made sure to ask him if he finds it strange that his music gets picked apart.

“Everybody has their own way of hearing songs. My fans are usually pretty on point,” he says. “Sometimes they go all the way to the bottom of it. It’s fascinating to me how far an idea can go. I wrote most of my first album in my mom’s kitchen, and now I can go around the world and hear people recite those lyrics, and understand the story, even though they’re not from the same area I grew up in.”

Read Dave’s full conversation with Kendrick over at Interview Magazine.

See 7 Rappers Who Think Kendrick Lamar Is One of the Best Rappers Alive

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