Hip hop fans wondering where Kendrick Lamar has been throughout 2020 finally got their answer yesterday.
i-D, a bimonthly British magazine published by Vice Media, presented an interview between the two artists on their platform. While Lamar was formally the one interviewing Keem, their conversation was in reality much more two sided than a typical interview. The two west coast rappers discussed their musical philosophies, life experiences, 2020 and the pandemic, music plans, and much more.
Check out the main takeaways from Lamar and Keem’s conversation below:
Baby Keem is for real
This statement is easy to say now when examining Keem’s streaming performance compared to similar artists, but Keem’s detailing of his upbringing and musical beginnings is eye opening. Keem first began exploring music at the age of thirteen, three years earlier than Kendrick began his musical journey (as he reminds Keem in the interview), and began exploring different sounds and styles early on. As Keem puts it, “I was just learning what mics I liked and now I know I’ve got to stop being stubborn towards mics. If I tried it when my voice was different a year ago, I have to try it now. I’m obviously evolving. “
Like Lamar, Keem is also interested in continuing to develop and evolve his sound as he progresses as an artist and as a human being. “I don’t want to do anything the common way,” Keem explains to Lamar. “If it’s organic and I want to do a record about this, I will, but not on this record. It can’t feel forced. Because the fans see through that shit.” Like Lamar, Keem believes in expressing himself in a genuine light rather than portraying a false image of himself, which will continually allow Keem’s sound and style to evolve.
Lastly, Keem’s sheer determination to bring him and his family, specifically his grandmother, out of poverty and into better circumstances have already brought him so far, and will continue to fuel him moving forward. ” I grew up mainly with my grandma [in Vegas]” Keem explains. “It was just me and her . . . [I grew] up quick. You know shit you’re not supposed to know, seeing shit you’re never supposed to see. I grew up with her, and I was kind of her best friend. I was a little kid so all the stress that she had financially was laid on me, even if it was unintentional.” Keem goes on to say, “when I came to LA, I came out to work. I ended up leaving Vegas for LA and I ain’t going back. Money is comfort, stability.” Keem’s work ethic will be the solid foundation that drives his career moving forward.
Keem and Lamar share the same musical philosphy
Lamar and Keem both believe in taking the proper amount of time to properly refine their sound before releasing their final product, which great contradicts the common trend these days in the music industry, and specifically rap, of quickly pumping out hit singles. While fans constantly clamor for Lamar to release new material, Lamar understands the importance to use the time to fine tune his sound in order to provide the best product possible. As Lamar puts it in the interview, “that’s what will take me so long to do albums. I spend the whole year just thinking about how I’m gonna execute a new sound, I can’t do the same thing over and over. I need something to get me excited.” Lamar later explains his thought process behind his shift from unapologetic, real west coast hip hop on Good Kid M.A.A.D. City to his jazz-hip hop fusion explosion on To Pimp A Butterfly, saying “I already knew off the top I can’t make Good Kid M.A.A.D City Part Two. The second I’m making that, it’s corny bro. That takes the feeling away from the first. I need that muhfucka to live in its own world. Then boom, To Pimp a Butterfly.”
Similarly, Keem sees the value in taking time to develop his sound in order to stay fresh and provide unique sounds throughout his career. As Keem explains, “people don’t know that you on some new shit till you start doing new shit. And if you can’t do the new shit then they ain’t gonna know that you on the new shit and they’ll keep asking for old shit.” Basically, artists like Lamar who are constantly pushing the envelope and changing their sound are the ones that will define the state of music, and Keem is right at the forefront of doing this himself.
The coronavirus pandemic put a stint in both Lamar and Keem’s musical plans
Many artists were negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and Lamar and Keem are no exception. Keem references the fact that both artists had plans to release new projects earlier in the year before the pandemic began, stating, “You were supposed to be out, I was supposed to be out.” However, rather than just letting 2020 wreak its havoc and accepting the loss, Keem used his newfound time to reflect on his music and continue to hone his craft, as well as appreciate the love he received from his fans during a tour run that was happening right before the start of the pandemic. Keem states of the tour, “I did the mini tour before all this going on, seeing how many people actually care about the music. It was tight seeing that and taking that home. I’m just grateful I got to experience that, because without that I don’t know where I would be right now.” Keem later talks about his reflecting on his life during the pandemic, explaining, “I’ve had a year to sit down and just think about the next experience. I feel my thing now is to detach myself from the wrong things and attach myself to the right things, things that I should feel. Like sometimes I’ll detach myself from a lot of things that just upset me because I feel like I don’t need to deal with it.”
Keem has Lamar in his corner
If this was not yet clear, Lamar clearly believes in the twenty year old Keem, and any artist that has the support of Lamar is someone worth paying attention to. Lamar saying things throughout the conversation like “You’re a voice for a lot of young people, a lot of older people too,” and “I watched you go from house to house. No money. Now being able to take care of yourself financially and support yourself,” and even statements as bold as “you made it a better song than what I would have done,” indicate the true belief Lamar has for Keem. Having someone who not only has the musical status but the creative acumen of Lamar on your side this early in your career in an amazing advantage that is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.
There are plenty of other takeaways from the discussion between Kendrick Lamar and Baby Keem. Check out their full interview below:
I have just completed my senior year at the University of Michigan majoring in international studies with an emphasis in political economics and development, with a minor in Chinese language and culture, and I have recently been accepted into the Berklee School of Music’s masters of music business program. Although economics, politics and history are all academic interests of mine, I consider music to be my true passion.
Music has always been my passion, and it is a driving force for the way I think, act, and conduct myself on a daily basis. I have been playing the clarinet and saxophone since the age of ten, and the ability to play music at a high level has allowed me to embrace music on a multitude of levels. I am both an avid player and listener of music, and I find myself constantly in search of new artists who bring something new and different to the art form, and writing about new music has become a new outlet for me to explore what is going on in the musical world.