Kendrick Lamar on Obama, Authenticity & Failure

Kendrick Lamar, international rap star and the voice of a generation, recently spoke during a “Make your Statement” session at the Forbes' 30 Under 30 Summit in Boston, MA. During his session, he made sure to use his opportunity to drop knowledge on young entrepreneurs and professionals from around the globe. During the interview, Lamar touched on topics such as learning from mistakes, staying true to himself, his friendship with Barack Obama and the intimidation of failure.

When asked about any regrets he’s had during his career, Lamar admits it was his lack of authenticity that hindered his earlier projects. Lamar claims that once he was able to let go of his rap name (K-Dot) and transition to Kendrick Lamar, he was able to produce content that he felt truly represented himself.

As a student, this need for authenticity is very hard to accomplish at times. It’s really easy to feel like you need to constantly represent the best version of yourself to others. However, it can also be an intensely draining façade to keep up. Hearing Lamar speak about his experience with success and owing it to the authenticity of his craft made me feel refreshed, and it was the wakeup call I needed to put my guard down and stay true to myself.

His advice to up and coming artists in the industry?

“Always do something you feel good about. Don’t do it because you wanna get signed, or you want a distribution because at the end of the day that doesn’t last. What lasts is something that’s 100% true to yourself.” Lamar said.

While listening to the interview, I couldn’t help but soak up every ounce of Kendrick’s advice. I also resonated with a lot of the experiences he talked about during the interview. One point that stood out to me in particular was in regard to his path to success.

Kendrick confessed that his biggest mistake concerning the creative process was, “Watching other artist’s success and thinking that could be my own success.”

I find that in a culture very focused on always presenting the best angle of themselves, it’s become increasingly easy to look at the ‘behind the scenes’ of your situation and compare it to someone else’s ‘highlight reel’. Hearing this point from Kendrick reaffirmed my belief that comparison is often detrimental to the creative process. However, comparison can be a helpful tool if used to compare your past self to your current self in order to inspire change and measure growth.

While on the track of talking about reaching maximum impact through authenticity, Kendrick jumped to talk about his friendship with President Barack Obama, recalling his first visit to the White House.

“It’s not even about a kid from Compton going to the White House, it’s about Barack letting urban kids walk inside the White House. It’s really him, I don’t want to focus on me because it’s really him giving me and other urban acts the honor.” Lamar said.

Kendrick’s point concerning Obama is one that I know resonates with a majority of the millennial generation. President Obama’s laidback personality and inviting character are just a few of the defining characteristics that make him seem so approachable. Obama’s eagerness to inspire and embrace America’s ethnic and musical diversity was a step not many presidents had taken before him.

Kendrick concluded his interview during the summit by shifting focus to his advice on failure.

“You know how many people are in fear of that word? I’ve been in that situation plenty of times. You have to almost intimidate this word (failure) with work ethic. There’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 of what we do.”

At the end of the day, King Kendrick’s values of authenticity reign supreme in a society where so many people try to be just like each other.

Photo Credit: Anthony Sanchez