Kendrick Lamar has been called "the best rapper alive" numerous times, but he doesn't prescribe to a particular genre. Take the Grammy Award-winning artist's most recent album, To Pimp a Butterfly: an eclectic mélange of poetry, funk, and soul, set against radio-ready beats. So it shouldn't be too surprising that the artist cites the late Prince as one of his biggest creative influences, along with Tupac Shakur from his hometown of Los Angeles.
"[Prince] is where I get all of my crazy sounds from," Lamar said recently in his trailer outside the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he played a secret show in partnership with American Express. "He'll go from a baritone to a falsetto. People just connect with it." When asked how his own music may change in the future, Lamar kept it vague. "It's my natural instinct to try new things and not be scared to put it out there," he said.
Here, Lamar gets candid about style, touring, and potentially starting his own fashion line.
What influences your style?
A lot of [my style] comes from L.A. When we were growing up, we used to go to this place called The Rummage Sale—it was a thrift store. Though I now have the money to buy designer things, I still think a sense of style is how you feel in the morning. So if you can go back into that thrift store and put on the coolest thing that feels comfortable to you, that's my style. It's not a specific brand or a specific look, it's a feeling that's true to myself.
It's interesting that with brands like Off-White and Vetements, things that could've feasibly been unearthed in thrift stores are now considered high fashion.
Yeah, it's crazy. We were wearing hand-me-downs back in the day. We didn't have money to get all that stuff and now it's cool. It's really about making the best of what you have.
Would you ever start your own line?
Eventually, I think so. Hopefully. The music is always first, but overall, creativity is the bigger picture. So when it comes and I get the itch for that and I feel like putting a hundred percent into that, then that's when I do it. I have to indulge in [fashion] head-on before I actually do it.
What else is on your to-do list?
Going around to different countries and performing. I did Africa, I did the U.K.; I think it's time to step outside and see the world a little bit more.
We're nearing the end of 2016. What album did you enjoy the most?
David Bowie's Blackstar. He was innovating to the very end. That's amazing to see.
What's been your high and low point of the year?
I try to focus on the highs. I'd say doing an eight-city run for my album, To Pimp a Butterfly. It was just a really intimate moment. I had forgotten about these types of venues and going back and doing House of Blues at a 400-person capacity was a ride. It makes you appreciate the people that were there first. We always try to get a bigger audience, but we can't forget about who was there at the beginning.
Watch a live stream of Lamar's concert above, and buy To Pimp a Butterfly for $14 on the iTunes Store.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.