In a rare interview for the cover of W magazine, the reclusive rapper opens up about the “tough” process of making his most personal project yet and why he was hesitant to release it to the world.
“It’s stuff that I’ve written that’s just now seeing daylight, because I wasn’t secure with myself in order to do it…. It was really about not being insecure [or] tormented by opinions,” he tells the magazine while in Toronto for his “Big Steppers Tour.” “When I did this, it was kind of the marker and the growth of everything I’ve always wanted to say. I think that was really my purpose of writing my way out of things that I was feeling, from the time I was 9 years old, all the way up to 35.”
He admits that the album was difficult to make because it touched on topics that were close to home. In fact, his family didn’t even know what the content would be until the album came out.
“I’m a private person; it was tough for me,” Lamar explains. “The reason why I had to make that decision, whether they was for or against it, I just didn’t want the influence. I could have cut corners and got flashy with it and worded my words a certain way–nah, I had to be in the rawest, truest form I could possibly be in order for it to be freeing for me, in order for me to have a different outlook and the perspective on people I’m talking to. I had to reap whatever consequences came behind that, and also be compassionate and show empathy if they were hurt by it.”
If he did have those difficult conversations prior to the album’s release, or allowed other people’s feelings to get in the way of his own, Mr. Morale may not have seen the light of day. “Them shits would’ve never came out,” he says.
While the celebrated rapper has won Grammys and even a Pulitzer Prize for his music, Kendrick wasn’t looking for accolades this time around.
“I’ve had rewards for my other albums in different ways, whether it was accolades, whether it was the Pulitzer, whether it was the Grammys,” he adds. “This one is the reward for humanity for me.”
Kendrick, who has two children—a son, Enoch, and a daughter, Uzi—was also influenced by his family.
“My children allowed me, in their development as human beings beginning to walk and talk, to remove my ego, to know that my children, too, will have their own independence,” says the 35-year-old, who has a tattoo with his daughter’s name on his arm.
“That allows me to understand the unconditional love on my end–will I allow them to be themselves? Will I allow them to journey off in the world and experience life for what they know of? That’s love, to me. And when I look at that, I try to apply it with how I express myself, how I look at my career, and how I meet other individuals. Am I allowing them to be themselves without any judgment? My children have taught me that.”
Amid his doubts, he thought of his kids. “When I got to completion and I said, ‘I may or may not put this out; I’m not going to put this out; it’s way too much,’ I thought about my children,” he says. “I thought about when they turn 21, or they’re older in life, and when I got grandchildren, or if I’m long gone–this can be a prerequisite of how to cope. That’s the beauty of it for me.”
In the end, his decision to release the album paid off. In addition to critical acclaim, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers has been a commercial success, becoming one of two albums to surpass 1 billion streams on Spotify this year.