From Kendrick Lamar's "Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City," his first-person LP examination of the callous realities of growing up in the drug and gang ministered streets of Compton, to the "Control" verse that sent the hip-hop community sputtering to its knees, one thing has been clear: 2013 is the year of King Kendrick.
And with GQ's release of its 18th annual Men of the Year issue, the magazine saw fit to place the crown upon his head, naming Lamar as "Rapper of the Year."
In an interview with GQ's Steve Marsh, Kendrick recalled being 21 years old and the night that fundamentally altered his perception of his artistic objective:
"I was coming from a late studio session, sleeping on Mom's couch. I'm 26 now -- it wasn't that long ago. I remember being tired, tripping from the studio, lying down, and falling into a deep sleep and seeing a vision of Pac talking to me. Weirdest shit ever. I'm not huge on superstition and all that shit. That's what made it so crazy. It can make you go nuts. Hearing somebody that you looked up to for years saying, 'Don't let the music die.' Hearing it clear as day. Clear as day. Like he's right there. Just a silhouette."
The visit from Pac changed Kendrick's connection to the world he was chronicling in his music and compelled him to think more carefully about who was listening to it. "It wasn't just about money, hos, clothes, drinkin'," he explains. "I mean, I come from that world, but at the same time, I started to realize that there's people out there that can't really connect to that lifestyle. They're in the struggle."
For details on Kendrick's inconsequential "beef" with Drake, his uncompromising dedication to honing his craft and his efforts to ascend a violence-driven life without estranging his roots, head to GQ to read the full interview.