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15 Kendrick Lamar Quotes That Showcase His Musical Authenticity

K. Dot remains as one of the realest MCs in the rap game. 

Since Kendrick Lamar became the poster boy of West Coast rap thanks to hard-hitting rhymes on projects like his 2012 major label debut Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City, last year's masterpiece To Pimp a Butterfly --- and of course 2017's DAMN, it has become clear the 29-year-old's wisdom extends beyond the mic. The Grammy Award winner has a flair for making a statement, especially in the rare times he gives interviews.

As Lamar's visceral and raw lyrics touch on the experiences of a kid growing up in Compton as well as a Black man in America today, the SoCal emcee manages to keep his cool and walk on the path of consciousness. Below are some of Kung Fu Kenny's wisest words on remaining true to yourself.

Billboard (2017)
"It’s a personal connection [with fans] and the experience of freedom [with DAMN]. When I say “freedom,” it means creating, being able to do what I want, to where you feel liberation from it. They already have a personal connection, because I’m talking about issues in my music that not only I go through, but the audience is going through."

Ebony (May 2015)
"If I can use my platform to carry on a legacy and talk about something that’s real, I have to do that, period."

Complex (October 2012)
"These songs, they come naturally for me to write off the experiences I grew up with and the things I been around. It was just what we were going through. It’s easy for me to write [real] stories rather than making up a crazy story.”

Spin (October 2012)
“You can’t take a person out of their zone and expect them to be somebody else now that they in the record industry. It’s gonna take years. Years of traveling. Years of meeting people. Years of seeing the world.”

The Fader (October 2015)
"I just want to be myself and not have any fraudulent points. It'll never be anybody from where I'm from that can put out a faulty statement about who I am or what I've done or how I've grown up. You'll never be able to do that, because everything is 100 percent real. People closest to me know it, and people on the outskirts know it. I always wanted to just keep that authentic, never want to have any weak points in my career, or in my character and who I really am.

Noisey (March 2016)
"It's a hundred percent real. I don’t even think I can make music where it's fabricating a story that's not mine. From Compton I could've easily came out and said, 'I did this, I did that, I killed a whole bunch of n---as…' Just giving out fact where I'm from. That ain't me. I’d rather talk about my reality."

The Guardian (June 2015)
"I find myself to be quite confident as a person but you’re going to have that piece of doubt in the back of your head because we’re human. We all have it. It’s just I like to address it and not keep it bottled in, because I don’t know what it could turn into.”

Coveteur (March 2016)
“Personally, I just like a more classic, comfortable feel. You know, it just represents my personality. It’s just a representation of who I am, another extension of what I represent and my own personality. Do what always represents you.”

Acclaim (October 2012)
"I don’t just wanna be a popular person, I want my music to always live because that’s what’s gonna drive your legacy."

TIME (December 2015)
"I want to continue to have something that’s not microwavable in a world today where our attention span is pretty much lost. We need something that we can hold on to, so in doing that, I’m [going to] continue to make the music I want to make and say the things I want to say, whether you agree with it or not."

2DopeBoyz (February 2016)
"You have to be confident enough to know that the message will get to the people around the world and they will understand it. That’s a gift that God [sic] put in me to continue to talk about these things. The message is bigger than the artist."

Interview Magazine (May 2013)
"I still know who I am and I haven't let everything consume me. But on the other end, I have to know when I'm me -- when I go out in public, to the person that sees me on TV and has a conception of who I am. That's the only catch. That's the flip side to it. But I think whatever pressure I feel all comes from me, from within. I always was that person who was hard on myself and challenged myself no matter what I was doing, whether it was passing third grade or playing basketball."

Interview Magazine (May 2013)
"I try my best to stay away from social media as much as possible. [Laughs] When you go on your Twitter or look down your Timeline and it's all great positivity -- I love that. But at the same time, it can really divert you from what your purpose is or what you're trying to do. And I've seen artists get caught up in that. I've seen some of my friends get caught in that. Whether you're a small celebrity or a grand celebrity, it really triggers something in your brain, seeing all that stuff ... So I'm real aware of it."

Mass Appeal (April 2015)
"My new meaning for "keepin’ it gangsta" is totally different from the usual. It’s really about takin’ care of your family, handlin’ your business, and puttin’ positive energy out there where everybody can benefit from it, not just yourself."

GQ (October 2016)
“I used to consider the listener. But now I'm in a space where if I'm not inspired, I can't really do the music. I can't feel it. I put in enough hours to be able to pen a hundred-bar verse on the spot at any given moment. But for me to actually feel an idea, it has to come from me. And a lot of times, I have to block out different needs and wants just for my own selfish reasons. But at the end of the day, it comes out where, whether you like it or not, you know it comes from a real place. It's gonna feel unapologetic, uncompromising, and it's gonna feel me.”

This story originally appeared on Billboard.com.

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Jenny Regan

NEXT: Kemba Makes The Song Cry On His Painful Masterpiece ‘Gilda’

Kemba doesn’t look like the stereotypical rapper. He's not loaded with expensive jewelry, a large entourage, "exotic" women, and stylish clothes. The budding MC is reserved. Remember the quiet, artsy, yet cool kid in high school who didn’t put on a thick shield of toughness, but you knew he’d fight when invited to? That’s Kemba, the seemingly reticent kid moving to the beat inside of his headphones.

It’s a dreary Thursday afternoon near the end of September. Exactly six days prior to this date (Sept. 28), the Bronx native released his sobering album titled Gilda, the follow-up to 2016's Negus album. But even in the face of album release parties and the fame that comes with having a record deal, the Republic artist refuses to put on the clichéd mask of a rapper.

The regular degular kid arrives solo, and on time, at VIBE’s Times Square office. Despite his mother’s death still fresh on his mind, Kemba seems to be in great spirits. He’s generous with posing for pictures, calmly standing where the photographer asks him to. While Kemba is totally alert, his eyes hold a glare that shows he’s pondering some valuable lessons recently learned.

One listen to Gilda, named after his mother who died of a stroke, and it’s clear that the bubbling MC is adept at sorting through thoughts and unearthing lessons from deep-rooted pain.

“I’m just getting into the habit of speaking about things and not holding anything in,” Kemba says when asked about extracting lessons from discomfort. “I haven’t had a lot of revelations yet. I’m still getting accustomed to recognizing my thoughts, and feelings, sharing my thoughts, and looking at the feeling wheel, and identifying all of the things that that situation makes me feel.”

Kebma began his rap career as YC the Cynic. With Eminem being a big influence on his early rap style, Kemba’s lyrical ambition is evident on early mixtapes like 2010’s You’re Welcome and 2011’s Fall Forward, where he’s rapping over a mix of industry instrumentals and original beats. Kemba was also doing a lot of open mics around the Rotten Apple, tapping into his gift of wordplay and building his fanbase through an old-school path of impressing local crowds. His burgeoning career leveled-up after being discovered by Queens MC, Homeboy Sandman, who introduced Kemba to Hot 97 radio personality Peter Rosenberg.

But as Kemba found his footing in the underground scene and came into his own as an artist, he decided to trade in his YC the Cynic tag for a handle more befitting to the picture he wanted to paint of himself.

“I try to separate myself from constructs. I never really had pride in my name [YC the Cynic]," Kemba recalls. "I always felt detached from my real name. So I just wanted to choose something for myself.”

“I wanted it to sound youthful, like it had african roots to it, and to sound strong," he continues. “And I really just searched a bunch of names. I went through names for about a year. Like YC the Cynic, you hear it, and you can think of the type of person that would have that name. I just wanted a name that, to where I could do whatever [musically].”

Fast forward to 2019, Kemba’s departure from the battle rhymes on Gilda is his best project to date. The album moves through a series of revelations, family issues, and takes listeners on a journey of a young man trudging through hardships.

One week after the release of Gilda, Kemba sat with VIBE for a discussion about regrets, finding meaning from traumatic situations, and controlling his narrative.

...

VIBE: Gilda sounds like a project where you’re exposing a bunch of lessons that you recently learned. Kemba: I feel like it led to that. It started with me examining my life in a way that I haven’t before. It started with me not being able to process my mom’s death. At some point I started to write again and it was like, “Oh shit, this is how I feel.” But I didn’t know that until I wrote it. This is the only way I’m going to find out about myself, so let me just do this. Let me think about my childhood and write. And then at some point that became me examining myself, reading back what I wrote. I’m going to therapy now, and I’m figuring out different ways to understand myself. But that started from me realizing there was more to it than writing.

I sense that you have some regrets about the relationships in your family? It’s hard because a lot of the relationships in my family are so broken. There are a lot of family members that I love and talk to on a regular basis, but there are still some that I do not know if it will ever be repaired. And I realized that as you get older it becomes harder to link with people, and you look up and it’s been a year since you saw them. Just spending time gets really hard as you get older. But that’s the goal.

Do you wish you spent more time with your mom? I think my mom is like a whole different relationship. I wish I would’ve been there with my mom. And I did spend time with my mom. I wish it would’ve been more quality time. Now I know the difference between spending time and quality time. I wish I’d known more about her, her history, and her upbringing. So yes, there are regrets.

Has your family heard the album? A lot of my family has heard the album, and I’m pleasantly surprised that the acceptance has been as good as it has. I imagine that a lot of the people that it was about didn’t hear it. But everybody that I heard from said they were proud. Some cried at some point and said they love me. And that’s a good of an acceptance that I get from them. There’s this theme of controlling your narrative throughout your music too. How young were you when you realized that that’s important?

There's a lot of talk of controlling your narrative in your music. Most 23-years-old are not thinking about controlling their narrative. When did this become a thing for you? I can’t remember when I had that idea that that was important but I do know that in general that if you don’t control your narrative someone else will. There’s a laundry list of evidence, from the history to America to the history of hip-hop, where people don’t really stake claim, and they get the value to the point where the story is up for grabs. Like right now, for as long as I have lived it’s been recognized that Kool Herc is the Godfather of Hip-Hop and as the story goes on the story gets misconstrued. And other people take claim. So controlling your narrative is super important.

Are you into activism? Your album Negus gives me that feel. That’s how I came up. I came up being part of a community organization called Rebel Diaz. They showed me the way of the social activism. We lead and organize a bunch of marches. We went down to Ferguson,down to Baltimore for Freddie Gray. I was doing that a lot, but music took more and more of my time. But I would love to get back to that. Those are my brothers. I look to them for advice often.

What will Kemba’s story read like? I’ve thought about it. I don’t know the exact answer. I just know the things that I love to do. I want to be a part of making incredible art as long as I live. Making my own art, and helping people with their art. Whether that means creating music, helping other people create music, or just executive produce projects, producing, writing for people. I just want to be involved in art, and more involved in social service.

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Lizzo "Good As Hell Video" Showcases Band At HBCU Southern University

Before Lizzo blew up with her 2019 album Cuz I Love You, she released "Good As Hell" in March 2016 – and since the song has earned a second wind with her newfound stardom, she's created a second music video for the song as well.

The new visual for Lizzo's ode to joy and self-love sees her joining the marching band at Southern University for the HBCU's 2019 homecoming week. With several young girls down on themselves for various reasons – boy troubles, messing up during rehearsal, body image – Lizzo lends her infectious energy to the band, while the girls' friends help boost them up.

If this video is Lizzo's last of 2019, it's a fitting close to a breakout year. She's certainly feeling "Good As Hell" after her success this year, landing two Billboard Hot 100 hits ("Truth Hurts" at no. 1, and "Good As Hell" in the top ten) and eight nominations for the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year and Record of the Year.

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From left to right, Kennedy Center Honor recipients Verdine White, Philip Bailey, and Ralph Johnson original members of Earth Wind and Fire photographed at the Eighteenth Street Lounge in Washington, D.C. on November, 16, 2019.
Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Earth Wind And Fire Hint Towards Duets Album At Kennedy Center Honors

Earth Wind & Fire's music has stood the test of time and it seems like more tunes might be on the way. On Sunday (Dec 8), the iconic band was officially inducted into the Kennedy Center Honors, making them the first African American group to receive the honor. The group's original members Philip Bailey, Ralph Johnson and Verdine White were in attendance at the 42nd annual event with the exception of the group's founder Maurice White, who died in 2016.

In addition to celebrating White's creation and the group's legacy, the remaining members hinted towards a new project. “We’re making a list, and checking it twice," Bailey told Billboard of a possible duets album. “And you’ll hear about it soon.” We can only imagine many artists would clamor for the opportunity. During the event, the group was treated to reworkings of their biggest hits by Cynthia Erivo, John Legend, the Jonas Brothers and Ne-Yo. The group has remained mum on the details of the album but were proud to celebrate their rich legacy and how proud White would be of the feat.

“You can’t play any Earth Wind & Fire songs without Maurice’s DNA being on it, so he’s always here and we’re always celebrating him and his vision,” Johnson told Billboard. “People are still coming together and having fun.” Since the release of their first album in 1971, the group has strongly influenced R&B, disco and soul. The biggest artists in the world have sampled the group including Jay Z, Drake, the late Mac Miller, Missy Elliot and Nas.

Next year will celebrate their 50 years in the industry with many more to go. The 42nd Kennedy Center Honors will air on CBS on Sunday, Dec. 15 at 8pm.

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