Kendrick Lamar Will Not Fit Your Mold


By Staff Writer

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Kendrick Lamar doesn’t drink or do drugs. Make sure you read that correctly: Kendrick Lamar, who is perhaps the most talented rapper working at the moment, doesn’t drink or do drugs. In a musical format that often celebrates hedonism, Lamar is a stereotype-defying, genre-bending genius who simply refuses to play the role expected of him.

That insistence on charting his own course is working, if last weekend’s MTV Video Music Awards were any indication. The show was basically an extended commercial for the album, which took home six awards, including Video of the Year. Lamar was also nominated for another three awards, including Artist of the Year.

Kendrick came to do more than win awards, though; he also came to do work as the show’s opening act. His masterful performance will one day be described as “legendary,” if the universe is just. While performing a medley of hits from his latest album, Lamar escaped from a net of lasers, fought a ninja, rapped at another ninja until he burst into flames, and finished the performance rapping against a backdrop of ninjas climbing a wall of fire. For those lucky enough to attend live, it was the sort of performance you might see two or three times in a lifetime.

That’s a long way from his childhood in Compton; it was that childhood, surrounded by drugs, alcohol, and violence, that led to his 2012 breakout good kid, m.A.A.d city. He still spends time with much of the same crew that populated the album; one of their running jokes is that Kendrick would be a better rapper if he’d just smoke some weed.

But Kendrick Lamar stays true to his convictions; in 2013, he spoke out against rap culture’s obsession with Molly, which was at the time the drug of choice in many clubs. Much of his aversion to substance abuse may be attributable to the fact that he grew up in a family that apparently partied constantly.

We don’t know yet where Kendrick Lamar will land on the list of greatest rappers of all time. However, it’s fairly certain that, at this moment, he’s firmly planted on the peak—and that his clean lifestyle was a major part of how he got there.

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