Kendrick Lamar gets the full Vanity Fair treatment as the magazine’s August cover star, with photographs by Annie Liebowitz and a sprawling 5,000-ish-word-long interview from multiple sessions with veteran writer Lisa Robinson. In it, he talks about his upbringing, his background, his influences, his work-life balance and loads more. Read the full interview here — and read Variety’s cover interview with Lamar here — but we’ve pulled some key excerpts about his Pulitzer Prize win earlier this year, his take on political songs and Kanye West, Eminem, and the N-word.
On winning the Pulitzer:
“It was one of those things I heard about in school, but I never thought I’d be a part of it. [When I heard I got it], I thought, to be recognized in an academic world . . . whoa, this thing really can take me above and beyond. It’s one of those things that should have happened with hip-hop a long time ago. It took a long time for people to embrace us — people outside of our community, our culture — to see this not just as vocal lyrics, but to see that this is really pain, this is really hurt, this is really true stories of our lives on wax. And now, for it to get the recognition that it deserves as a true art form, that’s not only great for myself, but it makes me feel good about hip-hop in general. Writers like Tupac, Jay Z, Rakim, Eminem, Q-Tip, Big Daddy Kane, Snoop . . . It lets me know that people are actually listening further than I expected.”
On political songs and Kanye West, Lamar said he doesn’t talk much about politics because “I just get too frustrated.” As for West’s recent statements Trump and about slavery, after a long pause, he says, “He has his own perspective, and he’s on this whole agree to disagree thing, and I would have this conversation with him personally if I want to.”
“Eminem is probably one of the best wordsmiths ever,” Lamar tells Robinson. “There’s a whole list of why, but just bending words. . . . ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’ changed my life.”
On using the N-word: “Let me put it to you in its simplest form. I’ve been on this earth for 30 years, and there’s been so many things a Caucasian person said I couldn’t do. Get good credit. Buy a house in an urban city. So many things — ’you can’t do that’ — whether it’s from afar or close up. So if I say this is my word, let me have this one word, please let me have that word.”