“You’re always around it,” Lamar says of Compton’s notorious gang culture. “It’s easy to get swallowed by it, because it grabs your attention at such a young age—just the thrill of it.” Lamar, who recounts several encounters with gang members on the album, says he used music as a way to temper the seduction, but even then the specter loomed. “Even cats in the studio were affiliated, so even if I wanted to, I couldn’t turn my back to it. More than anything, it became a question of, What am I going to dedicate myself to?” He chose to dedicate himself to a life beyond Compton. “The escape was mental,” says Lamar, who eventually quit the city that molded him. “It’s not necessarily about going to New York or Atlanta. It’s saying, You won’t trap me. I can do something positive with myself.”
Lamar quickly discovered that the disorienting flash of fame comes with its own set of self-destructive enticements. “When you’ve got the spotlight on you, everything—drinking, women, drugs—is at your disposal times 10, so I have to be that much stronger,” he says. “Every day is a struggle.”
Bullett magazine spotlights Kendrick Lamar in a new feature photographed by Bjarne Jonasson. In clothes from HOOD BY AIR, Balenciaga, Alexander Wang and more, Lamar talks about the music industry, life and what’s next for him. Read an excerpt below and head on over to Bullett for the entire article.