Kendrick Lamar has built a hip-hop empire upon his slashing lyricism, but he had kind words for Dr. Dre and Taylor Swift while speaking on The Howard Stern Show today.
When remembering the first time Dr. Dre called him, Kendrick said: “I was on tour with my brother Jay Rock, and I was his hype man. I wasn’t the main attraction. I was just there to get the crowd ready, get my own thing out, support my bro at the same time. It was Tech N9ne’s tour. … Me and my boy, we was eating at Chili’s — I’ll never forget it — we was eating at Chili’s, and we got a call like, ‘Yo, Dr. Dre likes your music.'”
The DAMN. rapper admitted that he didn’t believe it was a legitimate call and hung up. Thankfully, Dre was persistent — call after call after call came from people associated with Dr. Dre, and Lamar says now that the call “definitely” changed his life “because it’s evolving. That’s the evolution.” That first time in the studio together, though? Intimidating (even though now, we can’t imagine Kendrick intimidated by anybody).
“The first time was the moment I knew I arrived because I’m not only meeting — it’s not (just) an introduction — he plays a beat and says write to it,” Lamar said.
While Lamar almost missed out on his opportunity to work with Dr. Dre, he did unfortunately just miss out on working with Prince.
“I played him a record … called ‘Complexion’ — this just one of my favorite moments — and he liked the record,” Lamar explained. “It was at his estate. … It’s one of those things where it was so much going on in the moment, man. I did a show that day with him on stage. I didn’t even know I was coming out on stage. Studio was next door where I just played him a song. We runnin’ back and forth. It was just one of them things where it was a lot.” (Prince, ever the mystery, did not tell Lamar he wanted him to perform ahead of time.)
Another artist that Lamar talked about was Taylor Swift. Stern asked what amount of thought went into the artists Lamar chooses to lend his voice to, which Lamar agreed with “100 percent.”
He continued: “You gotta have a great business mind, integrity and a great team, and the No. 1 thing we talk about is how does the music sound? … I’m a hip-hop artist, so how far in the pop world is the sound? So the first thing is, let’s hear the music.”
He must have liked the concept Swift presented him because “Bad Blood” was born. The rapper joined Swift in the studio where she had the beat playing and he wrote to it, immediately recording it — “the vibe was right. It didn’t take too many takes. We locked in on the chemistry.”
On a non-music related note: Kendrick Lamar believes that fast food chicken might have saved his life. The story, as retold by Stern, is that Lamar’s father was working at KFC when Top Dawg — of Lamar’s label Top Dawg Entertainment — went in to rob that KFC.
Lamar’s father, luckily, charmed Top Dawg, who ended up liking Mr. Lamar and didn’t rob the KFC. “It is the craziest story,” Kendrick said. “Every time they come around each other, my pops and Top Dawg, it’s mind-blowing because they have to bring it up. They’ll just sit and look at each other. It’s a trip. Whoever knew that this little kid that was in the back store while you was flipping grease and chicken wings, 20 years later, he’d be sitting in the same studio.
“It always go around to … what if he did take my father away?” Lamar continues. “I probably wouldn’t be in the studio. I wouldn’t be here with y’all with you right now. I’d be messed up, because it’s a psychological thing when you don’t have a father at home, especially growing up in the environment we come from.”
This article originally appeared on Billboard.