Kendrick Lamar's next unrestricted chapter

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“And that doesn’t mean it’s bad,” he continues. “Everyone has their own journey. I was lucky to have a group of guys around me who gave me that courage to feed myself with the arts, whether it’s the alley cats in my neighborhood, whether it’s Dave who encouraged me to be an artist, whether it’s on top of projects , the Nickerson Gardens. I was always allowed to be myself.”

Kendrick and Dave share a watershed for them, which happened when they were in their early 20s, when almost all they knew was home.

They drove to their son Fredo’s house to edit the video for “HiiiPower”, a song from “Section.80”, their first official album on TDE Fredo shot the video and was supposed to edit it, but they had to take over the duties . “We were telling them this had to be this way, and they didn’t want to listen to us,” says Dave. “They say, ‘No, this is how it needs to be done.’ So it was just me and Kendrick sitting there thinking, ‘No, we’re going to do it like this.’” Once his kids were exhausted, Dave asked them to teach him how to edit. Two hours, five, 10. He and Kendrick kept going because it was their job to make sure it was perfect, because they couldn’t put their livelihood in someone else’s hands.

Kendrick returns to the story. “Seeing someone so dedicated to the artist’s craft, where he’s willing to sit down with them and edit the video himself, it lets me know what kind of entrepreneur not only, but what kind of friendship and what kind of dedication he has for something. he believes. It was my song. It’s not his music. I go on tour and play that song and make millions of dollars. So for him to be willing to sit there and do that, day in and day out, let me know. OK, this is a person you want to be around. He has your best interest in actually fighting you without even thinking about a check at that point. We just thought about being creative and the best, and from that day on, everything turned around.”

Under the dark twilight and through the rainy streets that show the Old Smoke’s poor drainage system, we ride to the Saatchi Gallery. The director leads us to the second floor, where there is a photo exhibition curated by art critic Antwaun Sargent entitled “The New Black Vanguard”. The exhibition is extraordinary, photograph after remarkable photograph, all of black subjects, against walls painted in striking palettes: pale yellow, royal blue, fuchsia, beige.

Dave, who is flying in a Prada nylon jacket, indigo cargo pants and bright yellow sweater, spends most of his time poring over a portrait by Kwabena Sekyi Appiah-nti of a young woman posing in front of a painted truck. He calls Kendrick over to see. “Look at the background,” he says excitedly, and points out the rich rust tones that saturate the image, as the model is looking back at us. Dave making me think of something Charles Simic wrote: “The attentive eye makes the world mysterious.” It’s exciting to see him and Kendrick in this space, curious, impressed, choosing and citing references. Yes, Kendrick is the GOAT and Dave is a talented artist in his own right, but they are also black men the same age as my younger brothers. Shortly after we met, Kendrick asked me what it was like growing up in Portland, Oregon, and I joked that whatever was happening in LA happened 20 minutes later in my hometown. Which also meant that fundamentally we came from the same world. And yet, here we are across the pond, admiring the art created and featuring Black people. Look at us, dear Langston, living beyond the deferred dream.

Later, we sat at a corner table in the darkened dining room of Novikov, an Asian and Italian restaurant. The restaurant is packed and at a decibel level that requires us to bend over. So close, I notice Kendrick’s eyes. How they seem to be both present and distant; both focused on the moment at hand and processing it. It’s none of that eyes-are-windows-to-the-soul stuff with Kendrick. In fact, they can be models of the opposite: eyes wide open with little or no revelation. They strike me as a shield of sorts, as well as a way to foster the mystique that keeps people wanting more from him than he’ll ever share.