It's clear from Kendrick Lamar's music that he's always been hyper aware of the social and political injustices in his community, and the Compton rapper's recent release “i” was incredibly well-timed, as protests erupted over the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
For Kendrick, these occurrences aren't exactly new.
"It’s something that I’ve been around since the beginning of time. I remember coming up in the city of Compton and [seeing] these same types of ordeals," he told MTV News at an event for his new Reebok campaign on Thursday (Dec. 11). “So when I make a record like "i", this is not just about me. It's about what’s going on in real life, actual [facts].”
He explained that early in his life, his father spoke to him about dealing with structural racism, as an African American male.
“My father definitely talked to me about that early on—he came from Chicago to Compton, and he dealt with it his whole life,” Kendrick said. “He knew the moment I was born [that] the color of my skin was gonna be put to the test, and that’s just how it is. We have legacy, people who’ve died for it, but [there’s] still that type of negativity out there.”
“He told me, ‘Every day, carry yourself with some integrity and don’t let them see you sweat.’”
Following two grand jury decisions not to indict police officers in the deaths of Brown or Garner, some protestors have expressed a feeling of helplessness and frustration, but Kendrick has found a way to cope.
“I can take inspiration and knowledge from my father and what’s going on in my own life and give it back. Not because I feel like I need to. It’s just something that’s in me, since day one.”
“I have to put that same type of influence on my ‘lil brothers, on the 'lil homies in the neighborhood," he continued. "We tend to act in violence all the time, and that’s just something we were brought up to do. Now that I’m more mature, I [can show] them other avenues to go about handling themselves: Being knowledgeable and jumping into a book rather than reaching for a pistol and reacting that way.”
On projects like good kid, m.A.A.d city and Section.80, K.Dot used his lyrics to paint vivid pictures of the problems that plague inner cities neighborhoods, and he’ll continue to do just that.
“I think that from a creative space artists always recognized [what was going on], but now the world is starting to see it,” he said. “So as long as I continue to say what I wanna say, clarify my reasons for why things are this way, and how we can deal with them— from my opinion, not being preachy, but from my own perspective—you can listen to it or you don’t have to.”