On New Year’s Eve 2009, when Kendrick Lamar was 22, he released his first collection of music under his own name. The Kendrick Lamar EP contains a barely minute-long track called “I Am (Interlude),” at once a reflection on his Compton, California roots and a preview of his monarchical hip-hop ambitions. Lamar performs the track in a new three-minute video sponsored by a shoe company (OK, for the Googlers: it’s Reebok).
Over a different laid-back neo-jazz groove than on the original, he tweaks the lyrics slightly, cutting mentions of a Grammy or the dougie and adding a reference to his Saturday Night Live-performed 2014 single, “i.” The black-and-white clip also shows Lamar discussing growing up in, getting out of and coming back to his southern Los Angeles County home city.
“It was really about getting to that success level where you can go back to your neighborhood and people feel like — you know — they look up to you,” he says, interspersed with the playing of local youth musicians. With a couple of 2015 Grammy nominations to follow this year’s snub at the awards ceremony, and an upcoming good kid, m.A.A.D city follow-up so anticipated a likely fake tracklist is circulating, it’s safe to say Lamar has reached that level. It’s also safe to say, for him, staying there won’t be enough.