The rapper also explains why Donald Trump isn't mentioned much on 'DAMN.'

By Christian Holub
April 21, 2017 at 04:04 PM EDT
Noam Galai/Getty Images

With his 2015 album To Pimp a Butterfly, rapper Kendrick Lamar firmly established himself as the voice of a generation. One of the standout tracks from that album, “Alright,” even became a powerful anthem for protestors and activists battling racism and police violence across the country. Though Lamar’s newest album, DAMN., is barely a week old, it has yet to produce a similar protest anthem. But as Lamar explained to Zane Lowe in a new Apple Music interview, that may be because DAMN. is focused more on self-reflection and looking beyond any one moment in time. That’s a lesson he learned from former President Barack Obama himself after their meeting in early 2016.

“What I took from that experience was the idea of knowing that it’s gonna take more than just a eight-year or four-year idea of change,” Lamar told Lowe. “Being a kid when he was elected, I got the idea that it was all gonna shift 360, like that. So having a conversation with him and him sitting me down, he said, ‘Change doesn’t start while I’m here, it starts once we leave the space that we’re in.’ That was the idea. Subconsciously, that goes to the idea of me self-evaluating my own personal thoughts, the way I think, and what I’m gonna take from this meeting when I go outside the building. That was something I’ll always hold dear, just the idea that in the moment of time I have to think farther than this year, or last year. You gotta prep yourself for the next decade of what you’re gonna do that’s going to change an idea or the thoughts that we have consuming us for so many years.”

(Lamar also playfully challenged Obama to a basketball game, saying he’ll keep putting it out because “I gotta see that left hand in person.”)

President Donald Trump does get at least one name check on DAMN., during the song “XXX.” But though the emotions roused by Trump’s dramatic political upset reverberate throughout the album, Lamar told Lowe that his focus was elsewhere.

“We’re not focusing on him,” Lamar said. “What’s gong on now, we’re focusing on self. You see different nationalities and cultures are coming together and actually standing up for themselves. I think that’s a pure reflection of this record, prior to it even happening or coming out. Now we see we can’t control what’s going on out there, it’s a whole other power that be, so what we do now, we can start coming together and figuring out our own problems and our own solutions. I believe and know that’s what this album reflects.”

Watch the full interview below.

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