Kendrick Lamar Opens Up About Album Concepts, Creativity & More

Variety is not a magazine that Kendrick Lamar is used to covering, but with his star power at an all-time high, K Dot is out here killing it. For the “Hitmakers” November 2017 issue of the magazine, Kung Fu Kenny talked about the critically acclaimed DAMN. album, the state of America, how he found his voice and what it’s like performing for him.

He also talked about non-music related things like how his favorite show right now is Stranger Things, dream collaborations with Sade and Anita Baker and his favorite place in Los Angeles, what he’d be doing instead of rapping and Twitter expanding to 280 characters.

As far as him being creative during the album process, this is what he said:

“For me, prior to me recording, it’s 70% me just formulating ideas in my mind and 30% just collecting sounds and making sounds, prior to me actually getting in the studio. Then it’s about figuring out which angle I’m going to attack it from and how the listener is going to perceive it. These are the ideas you’re constantly, constantly thinking about, and it’s not really about going to instrumentals and bringing on beats [from producers], because I feel my greatest knack is for taking cohesive ideas and putting them on wax. So it starts with me first, with my thoughts.”

Kendrick also said that he bases his albums after all-time favorites like Makaveli Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, The Notorious B.I.G.’s Life After Death and DMX’s It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot.

“I just come from that era. I don’t look at these albums like just music; it sounds like an actual film. To me, you need a big, grand production when you listen to these songs. You don’t necessarily just hear the music — you see it. You hear the stories; you hear the interludes; you hear the hooks and how different things intertwine. I always carry some type of conceptual idea inside my music, whether it’s a big concept or it’s so subtle you can’t even tell until you get to 20 listens. It’s such a huge deal to this day, seeing if an artist can still pull it off. Because there’s not too many artists who give you that in a way that feels authentic, where you say, ‘OK, this person really sat down and thought through this idea.’”

His thoughts on the evolution of his music was interesting as well.

“In my early years, I was just all about the raps. I didn’t care about nothing else. But when you get into the world of songwriting, and making material that’s universal, you gotta be hands on and know the different sounds and frequencies, what makes people move, what melodies stick with you, taking the higher octaves and the lower octaves and learning how to intertwine that in a certain frequency, how to manipulate sound to your advantage.”

You can read the whole story over at Variety.

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