Kendrick Lamar and Rick Rubin have both made undeniable impacts on hip-hop. Surprisingly, though, the pair had never met—until now. Kendrick appears on the latest cover of GQ Style, and for the cover story, the magazine brought K-Dot and Rubin together for an interview. It also apparently led to a collaboration between the two, as the duo ended up in the studio together at the end of the interview.
Kendrick met with Rubin at the legendary producer’s own Shangri La Studios in Malibu, California. GQ got the pair together and let Rubin ask Kendrick Lamar whatever he wanted, which really opened up the discussion. They talked about Eminem, Dr. Dre, Michael Jackson, To Pimp A Butterfly, and other things related to music, but they also discussed inspiration, integrity, and meditation.
When it comes to music, Rubin noted how “interesting” it was that Kendrick is like “a throwback to when lyrics mattered.” Today, Rubin explained, so much of rap is “about vibe and swag and personality, and less about words. And it sometimes sounds like even the MC doesn’t know what he’s saying on a lot of today’s records.”
In response, Kendrick explained how he got clarity “just studying Eminem when I was a kid.” When he started, “I had a love for the music, but it was curiosity.” Hearing The Marshall Mathers LP for the first time, Kendrick remembered wondering, “How’s his words cutting through the beat like that? What is he doing that I’m not doing, now that I’m into it?” He called Em “impeccable” and said he wanted to learn his skills “through experience and time.”
At another point in the interview, Kendrick said that, while he considers himself “first and foremost a rapper,” he’s open to making an album in the future where he doesn’t rap. He told Rubin: “I think I got the confidence for it. If I can master the idea and make the time to approach it the right way, I think I can push it out.”
Rubin also pointed out that some artists “get lost in touring” and “become less relatable” because “all they know is being onstage and accolades and hotels.” Kendrick agreed, calling it “a cartoon world” that “you can really get lost in it so fast.”
So how does Kendrick keep his composure? Turns out, he meditates for “at least 30 minutes” every day, or every other day, and lets himself “just sit back, close my eyes, and absorb what’s going on.” Meditation allows him to slow things down, because, as a musician, “the years are always cut in half, because you always have something to do.” He added: “It just goes and then you miss out on your moment because you’re so in the moment you didn’t know the moment was going on, if that makes sense.”
While Kendrick is now a global superstar, he’s still inspired by his origins. When Rubin asked him what his inspirations are, he talked about his upbringing. “First off would have to be how I was raised,” Kendrick explained. “The environment. My father being a complete realist, just in the streets. And my mother being a dreamer. It starts there first, before I even heard any type of melody or lyric. That’s just DNA. It’s always the yin and the yang, the good versus the evil.”
Still, it must be hard for someone as successful as K-Dot to stay humble. So how does he do it? He said he has “a certain type of grounding,” thanks to his family and a “team that has my best interests—not only in music but as a person.”
Near the end of the interview, Rubin asked Kendrick what he has planned next. Kendrick has “ideas” but he wants to “see what it manifests.” He told Rubin, “I wanna put all the paint on the wall and see where that goes.” Then, Kendrick suggested, “Maybe you can help me with that.”
As the interview on the studio lawn wrapped up, Rubin told Kendrick that it was fun talking to him and asked if there’s “anything else you want to talk about.” Kendrick replied, “Let’s check out this space, man! I’m in a creative zone!” Rubin agreed, and the duo is then shown working together in the studio.
The clips in the studio are muted, so we don’t know what the two cooked up, but we’re definitely looking forward to it. Check out the video at the top for the full interview between the two.
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