After a boasting year of success with his multi-platinum album DAMN gaining streams surpassing Beyonce and Bruno Mars over 2 billion alongside a Nike deal, Kendrick Lamar covers Forbes December issue as the “Hip-Hop Conscience” for their annual 30 Under 30 list.
There is the common talk about the DAMN rapper being considered as the ultimate conscious rapper, which he finds to be an opinionated statement. He recalls a quote from 50 Cent, which is an aide for his understanding of the “conscious label”: “We all are conscious, whether you’re doing gangsta rap, whether you’re doing so-called conscious rap, whether you doing whatever genre you may in because you have a post, you alive and you’re telling your true feelings … these are your true thoughts and you’re conscious of them, and you’re aware of them. You are conscious, as simple as that.”
Apparently, the Compton lyricist does not have an issue with the phenomenon of mumble rap due to his desire to see the genre evolve. He is not the type to downplay another rapper that does that emulate his artistic likeness. He’d rather display respect towards such rappers, for the sake of social equality. But, he also makes it clear that modern day artists cannot go about the mumble rap route and not “know who laid the groundwork.”
‘The responsibility … this is how I think is how you stay sane and stay focused in the essence of music, is to never forget the root where I come from, as far as hip-hop, and knowing my forefathers and the people that laid the groundwork for me to be here. I always keep that in the back of my mind. Never take it for advantage, and misuse it,” Lamar tells Forbes
Being a toddler during Hip-Hop’s Golden Era did not halt the TDE body’s exposure to the booming movement. Growing up on the west coast, he enlists rap legends Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, N.W.A, Kurupt and Dr. Dre-whose record label Aftermath is the upper echelon of TDE, as influences to his hip-hop persona.
“I think what all these dudes had in common for me, other than the fact that they had the lifestyle of being in LA and they looked like the people that I knew, it was talking about real things. Maybe I didn’t understand them as a kid, but the people around me understood them and I recognized the connection they had with that, and I looked and I said, ‘I want to have that same connection one day.’ “
When asked about his exposure to the founding fathers of Hip-Hop culture, Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash, Lamar, an 80s baby, revealed his coming into the universe was welcomed by the lyrical madness of the great, Big Daddy Kane. “I told this story before, that’s one of the records my pops was playing when I actually came from the hospital, like, blasting the music, my mom’s cussing his ass out, like, all the way to Compton. Yeah, they tell this story all the time because they trip out when they see me on stage and I’m doing my rapper thing,” the seven-time Grammy winner recalls.
Not to mention, thanks to his pops one of Afrika Bambaataa’s records, “FTP” which stands for For The People, is one of his favorite records.
Lamar also speaks of the grand influence Dr. Dre, Diddy and Jay-Z have on him in regards to high levelled creativity and entrepreneurship. “I listen to the raps and I hear his tones, and the mannerisms on how he talked about that. And how he felt accomplishing that, because that’s something we wasn’t seeing success from,” the “Loyalty” lyricist speaks of Jay-Z.
Fellow hip-hop influencers such as Cardi B, Migos, Lil Uzi Vert, Young M.A, Travis Scott, Young Thug alongside R&B notables SZA and Khalid join Kendrick Lamar on Forbes 30 Under 30 in the category of Media and Entertainment.