HITS Daily Double


In making your album, what came easily and what was the hardest to deal with?

I record in the studio as much as possible, so when it comes to making an album, it’s more about focusing in on a concept and building that out. I had an idea of what I wanted to do after [2012’s] good kid, m.A.A.d city, so it was just a matter of getting into the studio and building out the concepts.

Who played the biggest role in helping you define your sound for To Pimp a Butterfly, and what did they do for you?
The sound was defined by two things: the music that was played when I was growing up and, more recently, my travels. When I was a kid in Compton, my parents were always playing music. Whether it was oldies or early Dr. Dre or Ice Cube or Snoop Dogg, there was always music being played, you dig what I’m saying? So elements from that sound always stuck with me and made their way into my music. Also, my trip to South Africa—and seeing people’s struggles in a different country and relating that back to my hometown—played a significant role in making the album. Being able to travel and see more of the world served as a big inspiration for me.

What connects you to a song that makes you say, “OK, this one right here is special?”
Man, it could be anything. Sometimes we start working on songs and everything comes together easily—or we start and let it sit, and then I come back to it and hear something new that makes me want to add to it. But seeing the reaction of my people in the studio when something is done lets me know when it’s special or not. Yup.

The phenomenal performance with the National Symphony Orchestra Pops this past October pushed the possibilities of the hip hop art form forward in an unexpected and powerful way; would you ever consider incorporating a full symphony into future Kendrick Lamar records?
That was such an honor, and it was special to be part of something that broadens what hip hop is able to do. Plus, having Nas do it before me and lead the way with that was also special. As far as using a symphony in my music, man, you never know. The symphony brings about a whole different element in music. You never know; if the inspiration strkes, you might see some more strings or horns or something like that in my music.

What does having so many Grammy nominations mean to you?
It means that there’s hope for people in my community. To see someone from Compton come from the same place—and grow up how they did—to make it to the biggest stage in music just shows them that they can do whatever they want to do, if they set their mind to it and work hard.