Dave Chappelle sat down for Interview Magazine, but not for an interview himself. Rather, to talk with Kendrick Lamar who he calls ‘Our Greatest Living Rapper.’ In the new August issue, they sat down to talk about everything from their mutual respect for one another to Kendrick;’s influence on the culture. You can read some of the interview below and catch the full story at Interview.
DAVE CHAPPELLE: Kendrick.
KENDRICK LAMAR: Dave. What’s going on, brother?
CHAPPELLE: The last time I saw you was in Australia with J. Cole—you had just performed with Eminem. A lot’s happened since then.
LAMAR: Definitely. How you been?
CHAPPELLE: I’ve been great. I want to start by asking you about a recent scandal in the comedy world: Kathy Griffin and the picture of her holding Donald Trump’s decapitated head. My question for you is not about politics, but about the content in your work. In comedy right now, the issue is, “When does a comedian go too far?” And I imagine in hip-hop that’s been a long-standing debate—even when I was coming up, when Bill Clinton went after Sister Souljah. When you write, how much do you think about the repercussions of anything you might say?
LAMAR: When I look at comedy—at Richard Pryor, at you—it’s all self-expression. I apply that same method to my music. I came up listening to N.W.A and Snoop. Like them, it’s in me to express how I feel. You might like it or you might not, but I take that stand.
CHAPPELLE: I know you’re a big Tupac fan. And Tupac used to talk about this phenomenon, as he got successful, that he was out of context. He’d say, “Where am I supposed to go? I can’t be around the ‘hood anymore, and they don’t want me in the Hollywood Hills. Where am I supposed to go?” Have you run into any altitude sickness from your ascent, fighting all the way up to where you are now?
LAMAR: I think I’m still growing. The more people I meet, the more cultures I start to embrace, the more people I open myself up to—it’s a growing process I’m excited about. But it’s also a challenge for me, to be at this level and still be able to connect with somebody who’s living that everyday life. At first it was something I struggled with, because everything was moving so fast. I didn’t know how to digest it. The best thing I did was go back to the city of Compton, to touch the people who I grew up with and tell them the stories of the people I met around the world. Making To Pimp a Butterfly was me navigating those experiences. I went to Africa and I was like, “This is something I can enjoy and something I can challenge myself with.”
CHAPPELLE: Me and Mos Def argue about this all the time. Mos is of the belief that a person with a platform has a responsibility to other people. It’s the old adage, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” I don’t necessarily agree with that. I think some people can make conscious records, and some people can make booty records, and other people can make whatever the fuck they want records. But what do you feel, personally, when you’re making a record? Do you have a mission statement? What, if anything, do you hope to accomplish with your platform?
LAMAR: As I’ve grown as an artist, I’ve learned that my mission statement is really self-expression. I don’t want anybody to classify my music. I want them to say, “This is somebody who’s recognizing his true feelings, his true emotions, ideas, thoughts, opinions, and views on the world, all on one record.” I want people to recognize that and to take it and apply it to their own lives. You know what I’m saying? The more and more I get out and talk to different people, I realize they appreciate that—me being unapologetic in whatever views and approach I have.
CHAPPELLE: How did you feel putting out the new album? Sometimes you put something out and you don’t know what it’s going to do. But other times—like a Steph Curry shot—it just feels good when the wrist snaps, and it’s like, “Oh, this shit’s going in.” Are you having fun?
LAMAR: Definitely. I’m enjoying that people aren’t only listening to the album, but hearing the album. To go on that stage and perform that record, that’s the most fun I have. I get a full party every night.