Kendrick Lamar GQ

In its new year-end issue, GQ names Kendrick Lamar as one of its Men of the Year and features a Kendrick profile from the writer Steve Marsh. The profile says a lot of nice things about Kendrick, but there are also a few things in there that could be considered pointed or condescending: A fixation on possible beefs that Kendrick’s “Control” verse could inspire, a mention that Marsh is “surprised” by Kendrick’s crew’s “discipline,” a description of Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, CEO of Kendrick’s TDE label, as “sort of TDE’s Suge Knight.” Kendrick and Tiffith weren’t too pleased with the article, and Kendrick canceled his performance at GQ’s Man Of The Year party. Tiffith released this statement:

In 2004, I founded Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) with the goal of providing a home for west coast artists and a platform for these artists to express themselves freely and to give their music to the world. From our beginning in 2005 with Jay Rock, to developing Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, and Ab-Soul, to most recently signing Isaiah Rashad and SZA. We, as TDE, have always prided ourselves in doing everything with heart, honor, and respect.

This week, Kendrick Lamar was named one of GQ’s 2013 Men Of The Year, an honor that should have been celebrated as a milestone in his career and for the company. Instead, the story, written by Steve Marsh, put myself and my company in a negative light. Marsh’s story was more focused on what most people would see as drama or bs. To say he was “surprised at our discipline” is completely disrespectful. Instead of putting emphasis on the good that TDE has done for west coast music, and for hip hop as a whole, he spoke on what most people would consider whats wrong with Hip Hop music. Furthermore, Kendrick deserved to be accurately documented. The racial overtones, immediately reminded everyone of a time in hip-hop that was destroyed by violence, resulting in the loss of two of our biggest stars. We would expect more from a publication with the stature and reputation that GQ has. As a result of this misrepresentation, I pulled Kendrick from his performance at GQ’s annual Man Of The Year party Tuesday, November 12th.

While we think it’s a tremendous honor to be named as one of the Men Of The Year, these lazy comparisons and offensive suggestions are something we won’t tolerate. Our reputation, work ethic, and product is something that we guard with our lives.

GQ editor-in-chief Jim Nelson responded by releasing his own statement:

Kendrick Lamar is one of the most talented new musicians to arrive on the scene in years. That’s the reason we chose to celebrate him, wrote an incredibly positive article declaring him the next King of Rap, and gave him our highest honor: putting him on the cover of our Men of the Year issue. I’m not sure how you can spin that into a bad thing, and I encourage anyone interested to read the story and see for themselves. We were mystified and sorely disappointed by Top Dawg’s decision to pull him at the last minute from the performance he had promised to give. The real shame is that people were deprived of the joy of seeing Kendrick perform live. I’m still a huge fan.

Full disclosure: I’ve done freelance work for GQ before, and one of my best friends works there. And so I’ll leave it up to you to decide: Is this a case of media cluelessness, or rapper oversensitivity? Or maybe a bit of both? Take it up in the comments section.

Comments (22)
  1. I don’t think it was anything to get upset about. That said, it wasn’t a good article. I mean it’s silly to drag up Control again, especially when it wasn’t really anything to make a fuss over in the first place. I guess kudos to the writer for touching on the “backhanded tribute” aspect.

    • I don’t understand why talking about “Control” is considered trivial/pointless/sensational.

      Kendrick wrote a verse where calls out every up-and-coming (male) rapper in the game. It was a publicity stunt. It worked. So why are we mad at the media for taking the bait?

      I also think it’s funny that anyone in the rap industry, which more or less thrives on beef s and violent/ and/or sexualized disses, would get all bent out of shape about a vaguely passive-aggressive article. “I’ma murder you n****s” vs. “surprisingly disciplined.” Which of these is actually offensive?

      • It’s easy to see why the “disciplined” line could be offensive. But it wasn’t said as an afterthought, it was something the writer felt at the time. Without context, I have a hard time saying whether it’s offensive or not.

        Regarding Control, all it seems to me that he’s doing is setting his own bar. He wants to be the best. And he’s listing all the people he wants to be better than. I don’t think it’s anything but a compliment, and I never understood why it was a big deal. I thought it was silly then, and even sillier now. I think it’s important to note that he says “I’m TRYNA murda you n*****s”.

      • I don’t see that as a publicity stunt. I see that as simply being hip-hop.

  2. Or maybe this whole article is a backhanded tribute, just like “Control”! It all makes sense now.

  3. i haven’t read it yet so i don’t know…
    but…going by the intro of this article:
    1) Who would like to be compared to Suge Knight?
    2) That “surprise” line… it does seems unfair

  4. I read the whole thing. It didn’t really strike me as anything other than flattering, stupid Suge Knight comparison aside.

    Then again, it’s the Age of Social Media and Bunched Panties, and he really should have known better than to say something like “I was surprised by their discipline.” If you give people an opportunity to get pissed about something, then they are going to take umbrage — severe, morally incensed umbrage!…

    …That will probably last for all of 24 hours or so, so… What were we talking about again?

  5. Being compared to Suge Knight is one of the most offensive things I could imagine.

    Surprised by their discipline? I bet they were real articulate too. What a condescending piece of shit.

    • Maybe you should read the article, before you comment, lazy facebooker.

    • I don’t think the author was commenting on being surprised by their discipline because they were black. I think he made that comment because when you think of any popular rapper, white or black, or really any popular musician, white, black, Latino, Asian, whatever,you think that it’s gonna be a rowdy environment, especially when you’re dealing with a lot of young guys.

      But I see where they’re coming from at the same time.

  6. The response makes GQ seem like even bigger assholes. They should have responded to the reasons mentioned by TDE as to why they thought it “was a bad thing” since they were listed and if they felt they were unwarranted than they could easily have addressed them. Also making it seem like Kendrick is a bad guy for “depriving” people of joy is a low blow and makes them look like cowards.
    In short GQ, when you are given criticism, respond to the criticism directly.

    • I agree completely. If you offend someone – especially someone who’s doing a show for you – say you’re sorry and that’s not how you meant it. That’s just P.R. 101

      Instead he pulls a textbook passive aggressive move to make Kendrick into the asshole. If you feel “mystified” as to why you would be offended for trying to rehabilitate L.A.’s rap scene just to be compared to Suge Night is hella retarded.

      Everyone on here focusing on Tiffith’s statement are missing the point.

      • Yeah, it is weird that GQ seemed miffed at Kendrick’s manager for cancelling on them last minute. Can’t imagine why that would bother them.

        • I can understand their frustration obviously, but to you use it as an emotional crutch to pass blame instead of addressing the points you should be discussing is lame. I would have much more respect if GQ had instead responded on why they used the examples they did or how their words might have been phrased poorly or how TDE had misinterpreted them etc etc…

  7. I can’t believe there was a shitty article in GQ.

  8. After reading the article, the “discipline” thing is totally over blown. It isn’t having anything to do with a work ethic but just living a very responsible, clean lifestyle something celebrities of all walks and breeds have difficulty with. The Knight comparison wasn’t so great, but the writer was pushing the death row connection from the very first line of the piece so it wasn’t out of nowhere. Overall the profile is extremely positive and down to earth.

  9. People are sensitive.

  10. I think GQ’s editors and the writer of this article had good intentions in mind, but their presentation leaves a lot to be desired. The writer spends a lot of time commenting on how Kendrick Lamar and the TDE family are different from tired hip-hop stereotypes. His being “surprised” by their work ethic shows some preconceived biases against TDE, that somehow it’s shocking that a group of black men could competently run an organization. Also, his statements in the article in which he notes how Kendrick Lamar doesn’t really hit on women while backstage is irrelevant and lazy writing. But instead, Marsh strikes for the lowest common denominator, as if he’s yelling to the masses, “Hey, look at how different this one is from all the rest!”

    It paints this picture that hip-hop/rap is inherently amoral and degenerate and evil, and that Kendrick Lamar is an anomaly, but even Marsh questions Lamar’s credibility at times

    • I also don’t get why they feel the need to differentiate Kendrick and TDE from the rest of hip-hop? That’s what strikes me as particularly condescending and with problematic connotations. There are many aspects to talk about Kendrick and the crew, so to put so much focus on “surprise” discipline as a form of merit, plus a stupid Suge Knight comparison… come on, what writer would think this would end well?

      It’s so weird that there is almost no talk about the actual music. And all this discipline talk is bullshit when it’s loaded with supposed expectations that are offensive, even if the article says those expectations were subverted. Because assuming those in the first place is silly and uninformed and disrespectful. It reads like an article by someone who doesn’t really know hip-hop, or has a rather patronizing view on the genre (like those people who say “this is hip-hop you can actually listen to!”, you know). I know it was not the intention, but we all the saying about Hell, don’t we?

  11. Great artists tend to be pretty sensitive. I mean, the novelist Claire Messud had a similar reaction during a pretty friendly interview earlier this year, since she felt she was being treated like a “woman writer” rather than just a writer. And just think about *every single moment* of Don’t Look Back.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post, reply to, or rate a comment.

%s1 / %s2