Hip-hop is a universal language, a reality that isn't lost on Kendrick Lamar, who was just awarded the International Male Solo Artist Award at the 2018 BRIT Awards in the United Kingdom.
Following his big win, Lamar sat down with BBC Radio 1’s Clara Amfo to talk about his international appeal and the initial surprise of having fans of all races.
"That always blew my mind, like you know, these songs came from my momma kitchen and the backyard inside of Compton,” Lamar explained. “So to go around the whole world and see this white kid rapping it lyric for lyric, bar for bar, and wondering: where is he pulling this stuff from? I get off stage and he say, you know, 'It inspires me, not because I know how it feels to be where you from, but I deal with my own addictions as well.' It may not be from gang culture, but it may be from abuse at home or not feeling amongst your peers, and once I understood that, I said, 'Okay, it's bigger than just my story. Everyone had they own story within my story.'"
With guttural tracks like “u” and even the hyperspecific “FEAR.,” it should come as no surprise that fans of all identities can find themselves in Lamar’s music. While the traumas of gang violence may be lost on some listeners, the fallouts of addiction, suicide, absentee parents, paranoia, and true terror do not discriminate.
Just as music can make an impact across language barriers, so can Kendrick’s gripping storytelling and his willingness to expose all aspects of his life for the greater good of a song. Even when the content cannot be further removed, fans lose themselves in Lamar’s passionate delivery, his score of cadences, and his propensity to wail on a track. In that way, every Kendrick Lamar song has pockets of suspense and anxiety that exist beyond his own life story.