This year belongs to Kendrick Lamar. For the latest chapter in the Damn era, Lamar appears on the cover of the new issue of Rolling Stone. The instaclassic interview sees Lamar reflecting on his recent successes and the state of the world around him, while also answering lighter inquiries about his favorite Drake songs and his unknowing involvement in Taylor Swift’s public feud with Katy Perry.
At the top of the interview, Lamar is asked to reveal his vices. For Lamar, the biggest vice is being addicted to the chase of his work. “It turns into a vice when I shut off people that actually care for me, because I’m so indulged spreading this word,” he told writer Brian Hiatt. “Being on that stage, knowing that you’re changing people’s lives, that’s a high.”
For Damn, Lamar said, the initial goal in the studio was to make a “hybrid” of good kid, m.A.A.d city and To Pimp a Butterfly. “That was our total focus, how to do that sonically, lyrically, through melody—and it came out exactly how I heard it in my head…It’s all pieces of me ,” he said.
Asked about being “on some level” a pop artist, Lamar gave an insightful answer sprinkled with wink-winks:
It gets tricky because you can have that one big record, but you can still have that integrity at the same time. Not many can do it…wink-wink [laughs]. Still have them raps going crazy on that album and have a Number One record, wink-wink. Call it whatever you want to call it. As long as the artist remains true to the craft of hip-hop and the culture of it, it is what it is.
Lamar also gave his official definition of a “wack artist,” originally referenced on the Damn track “Element.” According to Lamar, a wack artist is someone who seeks approval by using other people’s art and chasing other artists’ versions of success. “Everybody’s not going to be able to be a Kendrick Lamar,” he said. “I’m not telling you to rap like me. Be you. Simple as that.”
Elsewhere, Lamar shared his thoughts on ghostwriting, which has obviously been a hot topic in rap in recent years. He said that he feels it’s impossible to consider yourself one of the best rappers if you use a ghostwriter when making your art. “I called myself the best rapper. I cannot call myself the best rapper if I have a ghostwriter,” he said. “If you’re saying you’re a different type of artist and you don’t really care about the art form of being the best rapper, then so be it. Make great music. But the title, it won’t be there.”
Hiatt and Lamar later touched on “Humble,” Trump, Drake (“I got a lot of favorite Drake songs”), Beyoncé, Future, his relationship with Bono, fielding acting offers, and—seriously—a ton more.