Kendrick Lamar: ‘I don’t know if I’m mentally ready to stop using the N-word yet’

The rapper attempts to reclaim the historically-charged word on track 'i'

Kendrick Lamar has spoken about rap’s use of the ‘N-word’ and his recent attempt to reclaim the word, stating in a new interview with NME that he doesn’t feel ready to omit the word from his lyrics.

Artists including Public Enemy’s Chuck D have recently urged rappers to stop using the word, which the hip-hop veteran described as a “derogatory” term in an interview last year.

On ‘i’, the lead single from his recent album ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’, Lamar explores “how the infamous, sensitive N-word control[s] us”.

Lamar raps on the track: “Well, this is my explanation straight from Ethiopia/N-E-G-U-S definition: royalty; King royalty – wait listen/N-E-G-U-S description: Black emperor, King, ruler, now let me finish/The history books overlook the word and hide it/America tried to make it to a house divided/The homies don’t recognise we been using it wrong/So I’ma break it down and put my game in a song/N-E-G-U-S, say it with me/Or say no more/Black stars can come and get me.”

Speaking to NME in this week’s issue, available digitally and on newsstands now, Lamar said: “I don’t know if I can stop”.

“The closest I can do to stopping is putting the root word, negus, on my album. But I don’t know if I’m there mentally to stop saying the N-word yet. I dunno, maybe one day. That’s 27 years of reversing that word, I probably been saying that since I was one-year-old.”

NMEShamil Tanna/NME
Kendrick Lamar photographed for NME

Lamar also explained how a visit to the prison complex in South Africa where Nelson Mandela was held during the Apartheid era influenced his album.

“My teachers always made Africa seem like this hellhole place,” Lamar said. “It’s like they didn’t want you to go, so when I get out there and I see all these beautiful people, I see these kids living in tents and they still had these smiles on their faces. And then you have this whole other side, as far as scenery – it’s this paradise that nobody never spoke of at school. I got a whole new perspective on life from going out there, it was refreshing.”

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW: Kendrick Lamar Interview: The Compton King On Riches, Responsibility And Immortality

Kendrick Lamar released his third album ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ in March.

Kendrick Lamar will be taking the main stage at Reading and Leeds this August – Leeds on Friday Aug 28, followed by Reading on Sunday Aug 30. Tickets are available here.