Kendrick Lamar puts a lot of pressure on himself. On his latest album, To Pimp a Butterfly, he takes the weight of Compton on his shoulders and when the pressure becomes too great to bear he falls victim to depression and reveals suicidal thoughts on a track named "u."
It's a turning point on Kendrick's LP, where after touring the world he realizes that he must return home.
"I've pulled that song, not only from previous experiences, I think my whole life. I think everything is drawn out of that, even situations from good kid, m.A.A.d. city," K. Dot explained to MTV News when he sat down with us at the W New York – Downtown on Tuesday.
"Nothing was as vulnerable as that record. So it's even pulling from those experiences of coming up in Compton."
Lamar starts "u" singing the words "loving you is complicated" over and over again. From there he begins to chastise himself for living a privileged rap life while his teenage sister became pregnant and a number of his close friends were murdered.
"A friend never leaves Compton for profit/ Or his best friend's little brother, you promised you'd watch him before they shot him," he raps, before he rhymes about his "suicidal weakness."
After Kendrick released his critically acclaimed debut, good kid, m.A.A.d. city in 2012, he hit the road to promote it. He went on a number of tours through 2014, including Kanye West's Yeezus tour.
"I'm feeling all these things while I'm on tour... I gotta get off stage and almost face the madness and get all these calls," he said. "It's real man, three of my homeboys -- that summer time -- was murdered."
The pressure became too much to bear. "It's definitely survivor's guilt, a lot of the album has that survivor's guilt," Lamar admitted. "How can I be a voice for all these people around the world and can't reach them like I want to? And they're the closest to me? That's a trip.
"And when I was on that tour bus and things is happening back home in my city or in my family that I can't do nothing about; it's out of my control, I put it in God's hands," he continued. "I couldn't understand that. And that can draw a thin line between you having your sanity and you losing it. This is how artists deteriorate if you don't catch yourself."
For Kendrick the hardest thing for him to accept was that his life had changed as a result of rap stardom. In order to cope he turned to music, and "u" became a crucial chapter for his album.
"When these things happen my release therapy is writing the music and this is one of the records that came about. And I said to myself I couldn't have this album without this record," he said.
"u" works in two parts; it's companion piece, "i," serves as a reminder that self-love is key.
So what was it that ultimately helped Kendrick cope with his depression? "The more and more I got to travel," he answered. "When I went to Africa and I got to see other people's problems. Their struggle was 10 times harder and was raised crazier than what I was."