Kendrick Lamar covers ‘Vanity Fair’: 5 things we learned

The Pulitzer Prize winner opened up about everything from his family to his writing style.

Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar is breaking all the rules. After receiving 29 Grammy nominations and winning 12, and becoming the first rapper to win a Pulitzer Prize, he is gracing the cover of Vanity Fair.

Here are 5 things we learned from the revealing interview:

His parents made all the difference.

Kendrick Lamar believes one reason he managed to make it out of the hood is because others of his parents were present. “It makes a huge difference…It shows you loyalty. When I look around at my classmates and my friends, they all lived with their grandparents. To have a mother and a father in your household—this showed me immediately that anything is possible,” he said before explaining they moved to California from Chicago with only $500.

“Mom had to go to McDonald’s to get hired [there]; my father had to find friends, and it was a whole gang culture. . .. They were learning, and they did the best they could do as far as protecting me. But they loved to indulge in that fast lifestyle . . . the partying and everything that comes with it. My mother encouraged me to dream—she was very proud of my efforts.” 

He was smart from the start. 

“My third-grade teacher came up to my mother once at a parent-teacher meeting and she said, ‘Your son used a word that I was totally amazed by—he said audacity.’ Even then, it gave me an advantage in life, to be able to take information, listen to it, and take a perspective without judging it and do my own research,” he explained. “The duality was that my father was more like ‘OK, good, now do it again.’ There never was a super-embrace—and it gave me an understanding of being critiqued. Almost like ‘I know you can do it better, so I’m not gonna show you how great you are already.’ It was a manipulation that worked in my favor later in life; by the time I was being critiqued, there was nothing you could tell me, because I know it’s not my best anyway.”

He’s no angel. 

When asked about a lyric that seems to reveal he shot someone at age 16, Kendrick Lamar admits he didn’t escape all the pitfalls of growing up in the hood.

“I’ll put it this way: I’ve seen my own blood shed, and I’ve been the cause of other people shedding their blood as well. There was a split second when I felt what my homeboys were feeling—like I don’t give a fu*k anymore—and that’s when I knew something else had to happen.”

WATCH: Kendrick Lamar stops show to school white fan on the N-word

The n-word will ALWAYS be off-limits to his white fans. 

K. Dot took time to explain why he stopped a recent concert when a white fan recited a lyric containing the n-word.

“Let me put it to you in its simplest form. I’ve been on this earth for 30 years, and there’s been so many things a Caucasian person said I couldn’t do,” he said. “Get good credit. Buy a house in an urban city. So many things—’you can’t do that’—whether it’s from afar or close up. So if I say this is my word, let me have this one word, please let me have that word.”

He’s a bit of a loner. 

While some have described Kendrick Lamar as “shy,” he insists he’s more of an introvert.

“I like to be alone a lot. I need that. It’s that duality: I can go in front of a crowd of 100,000 people and express myself, then go back, be alone, and collect my thoughts all over again,” he said before explaining how he has managed to stay humble and wise when it comes to spending his coins. “We’ve got to get to the root of never having these things. I look back to when I was 16 years old and thought, What would I do with a million dollars? I’m gonna buy this, I’m gonna buy that . . . Then I thought that me doing that is actually hurting people I’m responsible for. I’m the first in my family to have this kind of success, so I took it upon myself to wisely navigate this success, because I wanted them to be successful, too.”