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Kendrick Lamar Breaks Down What a Wack Artist Is

Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

On his DAMN. song “Element,” Kendrick Lamar raps, “There’s a difference between Black artists and wack artists.” While he hints at what that difference might be on other songs off his critically acclaimed album, he’s usually too focused on personal reflections to focus on defining it. He finally gets around to doing so—that is, defining what he deems to be a “wack artist”— in a new interview with the folks at Rolling Stone.

“I love that question,” K. Dot tells the publication after being asked to define the phrase. From there, he gives a pretty thorough explanation.

“How would I define a wack artist? A wack artist uses other people’s music for their approval,” he explains. “We’re talking about someone that is scared to make their own voice, chases somebody else’s success and their thing, but runs away from their own thing. That’s what keeps the game watered-down. Everybody’s not going to be able to be a Kendrick Lamar. I’m not telling you to rap like me. Be you. Simple as that. I watch a lot of good artists go down like that because you’re so focused on what numbers this guy has done, and it dampers your own creativity. Which ultimately dampers the listener, because at the end of the day, it’s not for us. It’s for the person driving to their 9-to-5 that don’t feel like they wanna go to work that morning.”

Perhaps not-so-coincidentally, the very next question Rolling Stone asks K. Dot is how he feels about ghostwriting in hip-hop. The TDE rapper says it’s fine, but in his mind, it disqualifies you from being in contention for Best Rapper Alive.

“It depends on what arena you’re putting yourself in,” says. “I called myself the best rapper. I cannot call myself the best rapper if I have a ghostwriter. 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.”

Speaking of arenas, as of a few weeks ago, DAMN. was certified as the best-selling album of 2017 so far, which ironically enough, put’s K. Dot squarely in the realm of “crossover star.” He’s proud of that status, but he makes a point to say he hasn’t compromised anything.

“It gets tricky because you can have that one big record, but you can still have that integrity at the same time.” K. Dot says of remaining true while being a cross-culture superstar. “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.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Rolling Stone asks K. Dot the requisite Drake question: which Drizzy song is his favorite? “I got a lot of favorite Drake songs. Can’t name one off the back. … He has plenty,” K. Dot reveals. Solid answer.

While K. Dot has never truly shied away from political commentary, he hasn’t said too much about President Trump aside from a few references. He says there’s no point in speaking on it if genuine attempts to affect change don’t follow the lip service.

“I mean, it’s like beating a dead horse,” says Kendrick. “We already know what it is. Are we gonna keep talking about it or are we gonna take action? You just get to a point where you’re tired of talking about it. It weighs you down and it drains your energy when you’re speaking about something or someone that’s completely ridiculous. So, on and off the album, I took it upon myself to take action in my own community. On the record, I made an action to not speak about what’s going on in the world or the places they put us in. Speak on self; reflection of self first. That’s where the initial change will start from.”

So there you have it: Kendrick has plenty of favorite Drake songs, he believes in maintaining integrity above all else and he’s tired of speaking on Trump. Sounds legit.

See 25 of the Best Hip-Hop Projects of 2017 (So Far)


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