Kendrick Lamar’s GQ’s Man of the Year cover was supposed to be a celebratory moment for the breakout rap star, but instead, it’s now marred in controversy after his label CEO said the story was filled with “racial overtones.”
That charge has GQ Editor-in-chief Jim Nelson scratching his head.
“Kendrick Lamar is one of the most talented new musicians to arrive on the scene in years,” the EIC said in a statement that was posted to the magazine’s website this weekend. “That’s the reason we chose to celebrate him, wrote an incredibly positive article declaring him the next King of Rap, and gave him our highest honor: putting him on the cover of our Men of the Year issue. I’m not sure how you can spin that into a bad thing, and I encourage anyone interested to read the story and see for themselves.”
Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, the head of Kendrick’s TDE label, had issued a statement on Friday blasting the mag and revealing that he pulled Lamar from his performance at the GQ Man of the Year party last Tuesday. Tiffith was ticked at what he saw as a negative portrayal of Kendrick and his TDE team. The story’s writer shadowed Kendrick as he attended and performed at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards and rode a private jet with him as well. In the article, he compared Tiffith to reputed Death Row Records CEO Marion “Suge” Knight and remarked at the TDE crew’s discipline and good nature. “You guys seem so calm,” he quoted himself as telling Tiffith in the story.
“Marsh’s story was more focused on what most people would see as drama or BS. To say he was ’surprised at our discipline’ is completely disrespectful,” Tiffith said in his statement. “The racial overtones, immediately reminded everyone of a time in hip-hop that was destroyed by violence, resulting in the loss of two of our biggest stars. We would expect more from a publication with the stature and reputation that GQ has.”
Nelson didn’t specifically address the “racial” portion of Tiffith’s statement, while standing by his magazine and the decision to place Kendrick on one of their Man of the Year covers along with Justin Timberlake, Matthew McConaughey, Will Ferrell and the late James Gandolfini, who all grace their own individual Men of the Year cover.
“We were mystified and sorely disappointed by Top Dawg’s decision to pull him at the last minute from the performance he had promised to give,” Nelson said. “The real shame is that people were deprived of the joy of seeing Kendrick perform live. I’m still a huge fan.”