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Interview: Kendrick Lamar On New Music, Black Hippy & The ‘Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe’ Lifestyle

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Shannon Carlin
Shannon Carlin Shannon is an associate music producer for Radio.com....
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Before Kendrick Lamar was waging a war on hip-hop with his verse on Big Sean’s track “Control (HOF),” he was just looking for a little time off.

Backstage before his Lollapalooza debut a couple weeks back, Lamar told Radio.com that his non-stop touring schedule, which includes 19 festivals, was starting to weigh on him. “A little time off would be nice. Two days at least,” he said with a smile.

But for anyone who saw Lamar’s performance at the Chicago festival, which featured a live band and a crowd-surfing fan in a wheelchair, the rapper didn’t seem to be letting his jam-packed schedule get in the way of putting on a good show.

RELATED: Lollapalooza 2013, Saturday: Mumford & Sons, The Postal Service, Kendrick Lamar

All this time on the road though has made it hard for Lamar to get back into the studio — something he addressed in our interview. He also revealed what fans can expect next from his hip-hop collective Black Hippy and what he really thinks about all those unauthorized “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” t-shirts.

Radio.com: In a Rolling Stone profile from last year, you made a comment that you might not release a follow-up to 2012’s good kidm.A.A.d. city. Could you explain what you meant by that?

Kendrick Lamar: I never quite know when I’m going to get back in that studio, you know? It could be tomorrow. It could be a year. It could be two years. It could be tonight. When it comes it will come. That was me saying, ‘I don’t know when I will get back in there.’

Are you currently writing new music?

Lamar: Yes, I write every day. That’s the catch.

Your two studio albums, 2011’s Section.80 & good kid, m.A.A.d city, were concept records. Are the songs you’ve written keeping with that same trend?

Lamar: I don’t know. I’d like to do something new, something a little bit different every album. When I get back in [the studio], I think I’ll figure it out. But most likely, I wont’ stray away too far.

Everyone’s interested to know the plan for Black Hippy. Is there a schedule in place?

Lamar: I think the schedule’s really making sure Schoolboy Q is solidified as an artist of his own caliber. Then after that we might go full service with it. That will be the plan, as soon as we get it off the ground with Q.

In a recent interview, Flavor Flav said that you and others like Drake are making great records, but they’re rap records, not hip-hop records. In your opinion, is there a difference between the two?

Lamar: Between rap and hip-hop? I wouldn’t know. I guess that was his opinion and to have somebody clarify it, you would have to talk to him and have him break it down, hip-hop and how it differs from rap. I feel like I got great hip-hop records. (Laughs.) But yeah, that was his opinion and I’m sure he was stating his opinion. That’s Flavor Flav. He’s OG. You know, utmost respect.

There’s also a rumor out there that you canceled plans to tour Australia this winter because it would fall at the same time as the GRAMMYs. Is winning a GRAMMY something you think about?

Lamar: It would be an honor. But it always starts with the music first, I can’t go on the album and say, ‘I want a GRAMMY,’ you have to make the music first. I didn’t hear that rumor [Laughs] I hear a few of them. But I mean that’s a good debate. A good thing to worry about, Australia trip and a GRAMMY show.

Your song “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” has become part of the lexicon. I’m sure you’ve seen all the people wearing shirts and hats with the title on it. Is it surprising to you how many people connect with that line?

Lamar: Yeah, you never know what really stands out like that. What will really stick. When you make a record you know it will be a fun good record, but you don’t know how many people carry it in their day-to-day lifestyle. Like these people go out and make their own shirts. I haven’t put out any shirts, you know, so they’re not coming from me. They’re going to their local spot and getting it put on there. They use it as a lifestyle rather than just a song. So it’s crazy.

Does it feel weird to have a song that has become such a part of people’s vocabularies?

Lamar: It’s not weird. I think that’s what makes the music stick around more than hearing it one day and then it’s gone. You actually can take it with you tomorrow when you’re not listening to the record and just you know, somebody’s getting on your nerves, you say, ‘Bitch, don’t kill my vibe.’

Lady Gaga was featured on an alternate version of “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” that didn’t make the album, but that she later released online. Are there any plans to work with her again?

Lamar: That would be dope. Yeah, I would work with her again. She’s a great artist, you know, a great artist. Innovative artist. If I get that call, I would do it.

You also hinted that you were planning on making good kid, m.A.A.d city into a short film. Is that currently still in the works?

Lamar: I’ve been writing it. Yeah, I’ve been writing it.

Is there a difference between writing a song and writing a film script?

Lamar: It’s a big difference as far as putting my focus into it and not really being distracted. But it comes from the music, it shouldn’t be that hard to structure.  I want to make sure I direct all my attention into it. If I do this, make a short film, I want to make sure I put my all into it.

Are their certain directors that are influencing the direction of your film?

Lamar: For the idea I have, it would be between John Singleton, the Hughes Brothers and Spike Lee.

Drake’s album, Nothing Was The Same, is coming out in September, will you make a guest appearance on the record?

Lamar: God willing, hopefully.

This might be a question you get a lot, but with both of you being considered the two best MCs of your generation, has there been any talk of doing your own kind of Watch The Throne?

Lamar: That would be crazy, right? Nobody ever asks me that. (Laughs.) But I don’t think we could do that because it’s already been done. Probably have to try and do something new.

Do you remember the first time you heard yourself on the radio?

Lamar: Yes, I do remember. I was in L.A. and it was 2 o’clock and my song came on at like 2:07 pm and it was a song called “She Needs Me.” It was a song off one of my mixtapes called Kendrick Lamar The EP. And it was a mixtape song, but that was when I was getting my buzz up in the city, so I was fairly known locally, local enough for the radio to play me and for people to hear it and say, ‘Oh that’s Kendrick Lamar, a new artist from Compton.’ So they took that record off the mixtape and they were playing it and it was a crazy feeling. It’s different hearing your songs come out the radio then in the studio.

Is it exciting to hear your song on the radio?

Lamar: It’s very exciting to hear yourself on the radio because when you sit back and listen to it and think about it, the hardest thing for an artist to do is to get one person to listen, two people to listen. So if it’s on the radio you have a hundred people in their car, thousands of people in their car, in traffic, finally listening to you. It’s a good thing.

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