Kendrick Lamar Discusses Trump, Obama, Malcolm X & More with ‘i-D’ Magazine. In a thoughtful conversation with veteran journalist Touré, K. Dot opens up about the current political landscape, his approach to competition in hip-hop, and his goal to change the world through his music.
Read the full interview here and check out a few highlights below, in which Kendrick talks about meeting Obama and the “mindfuck” of Trump’s election, how Malcolm X influenced his music, and impacting positive change in his hometown of Compton.
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“I was talking to Obama,” he says, “and the craziest thing he said was, ‘Wow, how did we both get here?’ Blew my mind away. I mean, it’s just a surreal moment when you have two black individuals, knowledgeable individuals, but who also come from these backgrounds where they say we’ll never touch ground inside these floors.” A pause. He briefly recalls his grandmother, who died when Kendrick was a teenager; how incredible might she have found this, a black man in office, talking to her grandson. “That’s what blows me up. Being in there and talking to him and seeing the type of intelligence that he has and the influence that he has, not only on me, but on my community. It just always takes me back to the idea of how far we have come along with this idea about how [much] further we can go. Just him being in office sparks the idea that us as a people, we can do anything that we want to do. And we have smarts and the brains and the intelligence to do it.”
“The key differences [between Obama and Trump] are morals, dignity, principles, common sense,” he says. Where Obama was an inspiration, it’s hard for him to even respect Trump. “How can you follow someone who doesn’t know how to approach someone or speak to them kindly and with compassion and sensitivity?” But ultimately the rise of Trump has brought out something new in Kendrick. “It’s just building up the fire in me. It builds the fire for me to keep pushing as hard as I want to push.”
On Malcolm X:
“His ideas rooted my approach to music,” he says. Reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X as a teenager contributed to shaping Kendrick as an artist. “That was the first idea that inspired how I was going to approach my music. From the simple idea of wanting to better myself by being in this mind-state, [the] same way Malcolm was.” Without music to give him purpose, he might have grown lost.
“I’d say that’s one of my greatest records because it gave these kids an actual voice and an actual practice to go out there and make a difference. They’re going out and they’re walking the walk and talking the talk whether it’s inside their communities, whether it’s inside their juvenile systems. They wanna make change.”
“You put YMCAs inside your community and you give a job to these cats that can’t be hired anywhere else. You make the opportunities, and that’s what I’m doing personally. Because once I put the power in their hands, they can put it in the next, and they can put it in the next. People can’t believe that it can change that way. But it has to start with one.”