Kendrick Lamar covers Forbes’ 30 Under 30 issue. The 30-year-old rapper and 30 Under 30 alum, uses the opportunity to speak about some of his biggest business lessons.
For the cover, K-Dot looks dapper in a Jamel Toppin-shot portrait. Inside the mag, Kung Fu Kenny speaks about creative control over business ventures during an interview that was conducted live onstage at the 30 Under 30 Summit last month.
“That’s something I always took upon myself and I promised myself any type of venture or partnership I’m doing with a brand, I have to have … 100 percent creative control on how I want the proceeds to go, and the look and the creative process, and actually what it’s saying, rather than just putting a name and a price tag on it,” he said. “Because, at the end of the day, you want something that’s further than the right now and the moment. You want to look back and say, ‘Okay, this red and this blue shoe, it actually did something for the city of Compton, which it has done when I walk back through the city and I see people that I grew up with and certain enemies wearing the shoe.’ And how they embrace the fact, okay, this is culture now.”
He continued by explaining how he is perceived by others in his community. “We got somebody that’s representing us that understands us, and value the actual mistakes that we made, as far as value is pushing it forward and moving forward past it,” he continued. “And that was the whole process. So anything that I do as far as branding I have to have that sense of awareness and knowing that it’s just not a price tag.”
Kendrick, who inked a deal with Nike this year, can speak to the value of business. He’s raked in about $78.5 million in the last five years, including $30 million this year.
That advice could serve others well, including this year’s 30 Under 30 class, which includes his labelmate SZA. It also features Cardi B, Lil Uzi Vert, Travis Scott, Khalid, Young Thug, and Playboi Carti, among others.
Read additional quotes from Kendrick Lamar’s cover story below.
ON 50 CENT: “Everybody have they own opinions, but … I always go back to what 50 Cent said, and it always stuck with me. And when he said it, it made an even more valid point. He said, ‘We all are conscious, whether you’re doing gangsta rap, whether you’re doing so called conscious rap, whether you doing whatever genre you may in because you have a post, you alive and you’re telling your true feelings … these are your true thoughts and you’re conscious of them, and you’re aware of them. You are conscious, as simple as that.’ When he said that, that inspired me to not only recognize my own influence on what I have with my people.”
ON HIP-HOP: “Hip-hop has always been the ultimate genre. Yeah. Even when these numbers wasn’t out. Even when the stats wasn’t out we always moved the needle. We always … we were the culture. You can debate me on this all day you want. We say what’s cool and what’s not cool. We say what we like. Yeah, we do that, simple as that, and it goes back to … my mom told me, I couldn’t believe when she told me this. She said 1987, the year I was born, [people were saying] hip-hop was going to last six months to a year … that tripped me out. And now you fast forward and you see Jay-Z up there, you know? [Song]writers’ Hall of Fame. This is us. This is who I am.”
ON JAY-Z, DIDDY, & DR. DRE: “On the creative level they brought a sense of … these cats that I always see working at a high level. As far as their music, it’s always been … on a high level. On on the music end, they always had the best music in my eyes. Simple as that, you know? They’ll throw in the visuals from each region, whatever they was from. And, bigger than that, on a entrepreneurship level, that’s the game they thought we would never break through, as far as hip-hop, and these are the three individuals that showed us that.”
ON PREACHING TO THE CHOIR & THOSE OUTSIDE OF CHURCH: “The best way for me to analyze and the break down how I do it is to not hold back. Simple as that. And to be unapologetic. It’s a process where I can’t be afraid to offend anyone, if that makes sense … I can’t feel like I’m doing it just for a region of people. I have to do what is true to myself and my own values and my own beliefs, you know? So, for a long time it was like, okay, I could tap into these people over here … but if I’m showing that I’m unflawed, then the people outside of this church, they’re not gonna feel who Kendrick really is. They’re gonna think that I am some type of God, you know what I’m saying? But I’m a human just like the people in this church and the people outside of this church.”
ON COLIN KAEPERNICK: “I think that ultimately you look at … you want to be a person that stands for something. Whether the plan works or not, I want to be remembered as that. Same thing with Colin Kaepernick. You know? I’m sure they feel he want to give up. They think he’s gonna give up but he want to stand for something. Simple as that. You don’t look at the moment whether it is going to work or not. No, you look at what the next generation is going to receive from it. And if I quit what I’m doing, or feel like I can’t go no longer because I have naysayers or I have people behind the scenes that say I can’t do it, or I feel a little discouraged, I gotta think beyond the moment. I gotta think further than just me.”
ON ADVICE: “I think the main focus, and I talk to a lot of people about business and following their dreams, and it always comes back to this one single word, ‘failure.’ You know how many people is in fear of that word? At least 80% because I’ve been in that … situation, plenty of times. Over several times. And you really … you have to almost intimidate this word with work ethic. It’s no other way … it’s no better way to put it. You have to intimidate it. Because, failure is the one thing that stops us all from being our own entrepreneurs and following our own dreams, and having ownership in what we do, because we’re scared of what people are going to think, we’re scared about the money we’re gonna lose.”