I Interviewed Kendrick Lamar Before He Blew Up. This Is What He Said.

Paul Cantor
11 min readOct 13, 2020

In the fall of 2010, I had the courtesy of interviewing a young rapper, largely unknown out of serious hip-hop circles, named Kendrick Lamar. The interview was for a 300-word profile to be published in XXL magazine, what I believe was the first piece of print journalism done on him.

At the time, he was on the Independent Grind Tour with Tech N9ne, performing a mere 20-minutes each night alongside labelmate Jay Rock, promoting his now-classic mixtape Overly Dedicated.

He was thoughtful and self-assured, wise beyond his years. Though his voice barely rose a register, he saw himself one day being mentioned amongst the legends. Many young artists say this. Few, however, make it come true.

This was our conversation.

Paul Cantor: Tell me a little about your musical background, the role music has played in your life.

Kendrick Lamar: I was told the day came from the hospital, my pops was playing Big Daddy Kane. From the day I was born, music always been around me. From oldies to regular 90s R&B, to hip-hop to Gangsta Rap. I can go from the Isley Brothers to Tupac. My moms and pops, they partied every Friday, with everybody over. I got tons of uncles and cousins, just drinking, smoking, having tons of fun. It makes you grow up fast.

Paul Cantor: Did your parents stay together?

Kendrick Lamar: My moms and pops from Chicago. They came out to California in 1984. I was born in ‘87. They came straight to Compton. Ever since then, they stuck through that shit. They wasn’t no perfect mothafuckas. My pops did his thing. My moms did her thing. In the streets, you know what I’m saying? Together. They stayed with it for the sake of me. I’m their first born. Growing up in a crime infested neighborhood, I was all they really had, to guide a nigga up to the right way and be responsible, living in the city. I was blessed from the jump to have my two parents together.

Paul Cantor: Do you have siblings?

Kendrick Lamar: I’m the oldest. I got two brothers and a little sister.

Paul Cantor

Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.