By K.B. Tindal
Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer
The game was prime for a changing in the early 1990s and Nas began playing a part during this period of time. But, Nas gained the attention of the hip hop industry when he finally released his debut album, Illmatic. His debut album was widely regarded as a classic and later helped Nas establish himself as a legend.
Two years ago, the game was prime for another change and Kendrick Lamar began playing a bigger part. When he was working with Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar was expected to take over the game, which he did. Upon releasing good kid, m.A.A.d. city, Kendrick Lamar gained a “classic” album.
Receiving numerous comparisons to Nas, Kendrick Lamar took some time off after his debut album. This was similar to Nas, but now Kendrick Lamar has begun working on his follow-up, which Complex is interested in. When they decided to do a story on this, they decided to reach out to Nas for commentary.
Read excerpts from the interview below:
While I was working on this story about Kendrick Lamar and the challenge of an artist following up a classic album, your name came up a lot because it’s something you have experience with. So, first off, how do you follow up a classic album?
Yeah, I daresay it’s the same thing. After my first record,”Illmatic”, people were waiting. Their anticipation for my first album was huge, but the anticipation for my second album,”It Was Written”, was way crazier. It was so crazy that I had to take it seriously. They called it the sophomore jinx back then. So many artists never got past their first album.
It’s something I thought about with Kendrick because his first album was received so well and already in his career, outside of his album, he shook up the rap game. So he’s just set up for his second offering. The [anticipation] is through the roof. It’s such a great place to be for someone who’s a writer, especially in a business today where it’s about singles and records that just go off in the club. It’s more artists coming out just slinging singles than banging albums. He’s an album guy. Those guys, it’s a different league. It’s an exciting moment for us.
I was talking to Punch, who’s the President of TDE, and he said something really interesting. He said Kendrick is “shadowboxing” because it’s one thing to compete with other rappers, but really he’s at the point where he’s competing with himself. I feel like you have a similar situation because you’ve made so many great records, but it’s like how can you do it again?
Yeah. But I think he got it. I know he got it. There’s no way he can mess it up because the love he has from the game is so large that he can almost mumble on the record and it’s going to be in rhythm and it’s going to be next level. So he’s in a great place because, again, there’re so many single artists that the album artist just holds up as a whole different kind of value. And he’s that kind of guy. So whatever he does, in my opinion, will be appreciated but at the same time he knows he has to bring it. It’s about challenges, right? Life’s about challenges. In this game it’s about challenges.
There’re so many single artists that the album artist just holds up as a whole different kind of value. And Kendrick is that kind of guy. So whatever he does, in my opinion, will be appreciated but at the same time he knows he has to bring it.
Right, we talked about this before when we interviewed you for “The Making of ‘It Was Written.'” I remember you saying that you wanted to be number one. You were saying it couldn’t just be street people bumping your songs and that “I need mayor Giuliani dancing to my songs.” You wanted those big radio records because Biggie had came out and was getting radio play.
Well, we broke open those doors so that you don’t have those same pressures any more. Back then, it was the beginning of them playing street records on the radio all day. So back then you needed something that had more radio appeal more than you do today. Today, a good clean radio record is going to take you there, but it’s not as important as it was back then.
We were opening that door so we had to we had to figure out if y’all wanted it to sound a little smoother or what y’all wanted to see. Y’all wanted us to challenge ourselves and see if we could do the same spins as Toni Braxton, same spins as Janet Jackson, same spins as whoever was on the top of pop charts. We challenged them too because everybody was trying to trying to hold rap back. We were f!ghting against the whole system. We broke those doors down. The Internet made the world smaller, so it’s easier now for people to hear your music. You don’t necessarily need a radio record.
When I was talking to the TDE guys they were kind of making this comparison between “Illmatic” and “good kid.” Do you think that’s a fair comparison?
No, it’s not a fair comparison to me because “Illmatic” represented a different time and a different expression for different reasons. The times inspired the sound of that—the climate of the music business, the rap game, the industry, the year, and life in itself. It’s not fair to Kendrick’s album either because his album is a brand new expression that represents these times, the sound represents what’s happening now, he’s changing things today.
You can compare them because you can compare me and Kendrick in a lot of ways. But at the same time you have to respect his journey. His journey is his own fresh journey and to compare it with me or anybody else is not fair to him. You gotta respect his music for him. It’s cool to compare it but at the end of the day, allow him to have his own lane.
Follow K.B. Tindal on Twitter @KBTindal.