Rapper Kendrick Lamar Takes On the City, the City of Compton.

Patrick Bowman / Photographed by Rebecca Smeyne
It's only been nine months since Kendrick Lamar and his insanely talented Black Hippy compatriots (Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock) signed a joint venture deal with Interscope Records and Aftermath Entertainment. But there's little doubt the deal signals a sea change for the tight collective. 

After spending the past eight years together, recording some of the most heralded hip-hop in recent memory (Lamar's Section.80, Schoolboy Q's Habits & Contradictions, Ab-Soul's Control System) in the same suburban house in Carson, CA, the risk of stumbling during the transition from reigning underground kings to major-label artists is ever present. But Lamar, the clear-eyed, socially conscious, teetotaling breakout star of Black Hippy, knows their deal with Interscope won't stifle the group's talent and palpable chemistry. It's simply the next chapter. "We came into the game together eight years ago, and the plan we had all along is manifesting now," he says. "The only difference is more people are listening."

Following his successful 2011 debut Section.80, Lamar found himself working closely with California legend Dr. Dre on his sophomore release good kid, m.A.A.d city. It's an album that Interscope, and in turn Dre, hope will lead the next wave of West Coast hip-hop.

"I definitely embrace that [responsibility]" says Lamar. "I know I'm at the forefront of a new generation, and I'm going to deliver. I'm not going to look down on it." And if the first two singles from good kid -- "Swimming Pool (Drank)" and "Recipe" -- are any indication, Lamar's at the top of his game. On both tracks he deploys vivid, tightly coiled verses with a lucid, effortless flow, picking apart dark memories and images mined from his complicated relationship with his hometown of Compton.

"I realized I can't run from where I come from, I can't run from the streets," says Lamar. "No matter how much positive light I turn on it, I can't run from my past."

★ good kid, m.A.A.d city is out now. ★

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