For those of you who might have been dozing at the back, we’ll repeat it one more time: Kendrick Lamar is having one hell of a moment.
The Compton MC’s been a sizeable deal for a while now: 2010′s O.verly D.edicated proved a lodestone for fans of thoughtful, vital hip-hop, and last year’s independently distributed Section.80 LP swelled an (already mammoth) online fanbase. 2012, though, has been the year when Lamar’s properly grasped for the crown.
Operating under the patronage of Dr. Dre, Lamar popped up in February toting the astonishing ‘Cartoon & Cereal’, still the best hip-hop single of the year by a couple of country miles. After a spate of fine tracks (‘The Recipe’), scene-stealing cameo appearances (MMG’s ‘Power Circle’) and a spot on the Coachella main stage, the year was Lamar’s to lose. Debut LP good kid, m.A.A.d city – officially Billboard’s biggest selling album of the year for a new artist - saw Lamar thoroughly carpe that diem.
A rich, detailed creation daubed on a widescreen canvas, Lamar’s major label debut blew us away. Standing in sharp relief to the cataract of disposable mixtapes gushing out of the web, good kid, m.A.A.d city is a Proper Album – an autobiographical treatise, a topographical map of Lamar’s home city, and an inventive collection of killer cuts all rolled into one. If Our Mutual Friend had an MC Eiht feature, it’d look a fair bit like good kid, m.A.A.d city.
Following on from his appearance at Brixton Academy for Radio 1Xtra Live this week, FACT sat down with Lamar to talk stage props, DJ Quik, and the virtues of keeping your fans waiting.
“Oh yeah, it’s been great, man, it’s been great. For it to do good – as far as reviews and actual numbers – proves, as you know, that this type of hip-hop will still survive in this world.”
Were you expecting the sort of response you’ve had, or has it come as a big surprise?
“I was expecting, I was expecting. I’m not even going to lie about it. Just because of the simple fact I know that there hasn’t really been a concept record in so long. I know people continue to appreciate it. So it being put out in this generation and time, it should get that more acknowledgement, and that’s exactly what’s happened.”
What you say about it being a concept record – the thing that’s fascinating about it is that, rather than being a collection of tracks, you’ve crafted a really sophisticated narrative across an album’s length. I was wondering how you went about creating a narrative that expansive?
“I really went about it just tracing my steps, actual real life situations, which makes it kind of easy for me to construct it, being that this album actually comes from a real place with real people and real situations. So when I put the songs together, it was really just about putting the pieces together, as far as putting the extra oomph on the story.”
It made me wonder if you’re a film fan. It’s quite cinematic in the way you’ve pulled it together.
“Yeah, I’m definitely big on film. I really construct it like an actual movie. Drawing somebody in with the introduction, right into it – not no long intro or anything like that, just a little bit of something a little different.”
Are there records you’ve been influenced by that have a similar sort of scope to them?
“Oh yeah, definitely. Records I’m influenced would probably be The Chronic, Doggystyle, DMX’s It’s Dark And Hell is Hot. A few records, you know. Most of the classic records have that feel that it was more than just a bunch of songs on the album.”
Something that works so well on this record – and across your whole discography as well – is the way in which you flit between different voices, sometimes within the same track. Why do you use that technique? What does it allow you to do?
“It’s really just a technique that I developed in terms of being original and not wanting to sound the same way and bore the listener, every song sounding the same way or using the same flow. That’s an advantage. Another advantage is I can really go into detail on different stories, on how certain songs should feel rather than just, you know, sound. It plays on both parts – I think it’s a plus on my end as far as being original.”
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