Kendrick Lamar has become one of the most influential artists of this generation but it is the way in which he has accomplished it that makes K.Dot such an integral part of music today. Some would credit his success to his in-depth storytelling ability that was on display well before Good Kid, M.A.A.D City while others may point to how he properly represents himself, the city of Compton through his own lens or even his intricate rhyme schemes. While no answer holds any more weight than the next, it has forced Kendrick into a difficult yet rewarding situation.
Wanting to be “famous” is purely ego driven and sometimes can dilute the authenticity of a person that landed them in the spotlight to begin with. Once that happens there becomes a disconnect between the artist and their fans. Maybe this is the reason why the “new fame” is something that Kendrick Lamar is having some difficulties adjusting to. His humble, low-key nature tends to make him lean away from needing the validation of “limelight”, his true goal seems to be: tell his story and do so in a creative way in which he chooses. This is evident as he constantly expresses his personal struggles and experiences through music, but the result forced him to become something he didn’t necessarily intend on becoming – a role model.
Kendrick told XXL “I think one of my biggest battles within myself is embracing leadership. You always grow up and you hate the term “role model.” You would say, “I don’t wanna be a role model. I don’t want none of that.” But in actuality, you are the biggest role model. It’s impossible to fight the title of role model. Especially when the type of music I make is so personal. People feel like they can relate to me or that they are me. These kids feel like they got nothing to believe in but they see me and say, “Kendrick, I believe in you. I believe in your music.”
The connection he speaks of extends way beyond the general perception of “fame” and touches fans in ways he never imagined. He describes on multiple occasions where a kid would come up to him saying,“Kendrick, I was gonna kill myself last week. Section.80, good kid, m.A.A.d city saved my life.” Or “I was gonna kill myself tonight until I came to your show.”
That is an incredible battle for anyone to deal with and handle in such a positive manner. Those moments answer the original question presented as to what makes him one of the most influential artists of this generation and why. It is simply the quality of his character and the hope he represents.
So while he openly admits his struggle with embracing leadership and spending nights asking himself, “Who am I? Is this really what I’m supposed to be doing? How did I get here? Why am I doing this? What’s my responsibility?”
We truly believe the answer is something he knows and can all identify with when acting out of love. He summed it quite nicely.
“What I do is for a greater purpose.” – Kendrick Lamar.