9 important things we learned when Kendrick Lamar interviewed Baby Keem
For the 40th Anniversary Issue of i-D, the rappers discussed their new music, pgLang, making money and the importance of family.
Photography Glen Luchford for i-D's The 40th Anniversary Issue
If Kendrick Lamar is musical royalty, Baby Keem is rap’s new vanguard -- but despite being over a decade apart in age, the two men have a lot in common. From their humble beginnings to their comparably rigorous creative processes, Keem and Kendrick are as thick as thieves, and share a mutual respect for each other’s work so strong that it’s almost palpable.
In i-D’s The 40th Anniversary Issue (sweet birthday baby!), the artists got together to share with us their thoughts on money, craft, ambition, and fame. There’s a lot of wisdom contained within the full conversation, which you should definitely read, but we’ve prepared a taster menu of the juiciest bits especially for you.
1. The coronavirus pandemic has meant they’ve both had to push back their new albums, but that hasn’t stopped the development of their craft
“I did the mini tour before all this going on, seeing how many people actually care about the music,” says Keem, explaining how the live performances helped him grow as an artist. “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. You were supposed to be out, I was supposed to be out. I’ve had a year to sit down and just think about the next experience.”
2. If you’ve been expecting a sequel to 2012’s Good Kid M.A.A.D City, Kendrick has some unfortunate news for you
“I remember the sophomore jinx of Good Kid M.A.A.D City; it was for that year and for that time. I was in a different space in my life. 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.”
3. We learned a bit more about Kendrick’s mysterious company pgLang, through Baby Keem’s eyes
“I’ve seen pgLang before it was even an idea that came to fruition. It’s sticking to and believing in something, even when you don’t know how it will be created, and it starts out as just a small idea. I believed in it, and I stuck to it and now everything is paying off. So I’ve seen it from when there was no idea, to now. So to me, pgLang represents loyalty and trust.”
4. Keem stole a beat that was originally intended to go on Damn, but Kendrick’s not too mad about it
“That was my favourite beat, I just forgot about it because that was a beat that I was supposed to put on Damn, but I never got to it,” explains Kendrick. “It was in my top five DJ Dahi beats. But the fact that you grabbed that beat, and did something that I wouldn’t ever have done on it, you made it a better song than what I would have done. And that’s why I was like okay, this nigga hard.”
5. In fact, it was that very same beat that was the catalyst for Keem returning to Die for my Bitch to innovate the record
“When I stole that beat, I think I had ‘finished’ Die for my Bitch. So I was working on the next project that’s about to come out now. I stole a beat that was too ahead of its time for me and it opened up a whole new world. After that I started working on Die for my Bitch again. When I did the song, I thought, yeah this shit’s hard. I remember niggas started hitting me, and they were saying that ‘this might be your best song ever’. So to hear that was tight. That song propelled me to do experimental shit with Die for my Bitch.”
6. Keem couldn’t care less about his socials…
“Twitter is just niggas hating on stuff for no reason, and that shit’s boring.”
7. …And, for a while, school was very much at the bottom of his list of priorities too. Kendrick caught some heat for that, though
“Your auntie calling me asking what’s going on? This nigga missing all types of days from school! Letters were getting sent to the house. I’m like ‘Ah fuck, this nigga been out here’. Nigga, I felt some type of accountability! You were talented as hell but you had to graduate. So it was about finding that middle ground, but that shit worked out.”
8. They both take their finances very seriously
“I look at money as a resource to put the proper resources around my family and to educate myself,” says Kendrick. Keem agrees, adding: “Money is comfort, stability”.
9. Kendrick revealed himself to be the Hayao Miyazaki of rap, finally revealing why he takes so much time between 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.”