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10 Inspiring Quotes From Pulitzer Prize-Winning Rapper Kendrick Lamar

The artist has achieved legendary status.


Kendrick Lamar has called himself “the greatest rapper alive,” and on April 16, he became the first rapper to win the Pulitzer Prize for music.

Daniel Leal-Olivas | Getty Images
Kendrick Lamar

The Pulitzer board described Lamar’s fourth album, DAMN., as “a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.”

The Compton, Calif., native’s art has garnered him 12 Grammy wins and 29 nominations, the 2013 American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Vanguard Award and dozens of other honors.

Related: 50 Inspirational Quotes to Motivate You

Since DAMN.’s release a year ago, 30-year-old Lamar curated, produced and co-wrote the soundtrack for the Marvel Studios film Black Panther. Previous albums include To Pimp a Butterfly, good kid, m.A.A.d city and Section.80. In 2016, he released an eight-track compilation, untitled unmastered, and he’s contributed guest verses to tracks by artists such as Beyonce, SZA, Vince Staples, Kanye West, Taylor Swift and others.

Lamar’s poetic tracks and expansive LPs address issues of race, religion and integrity. In interviews, he often discusses the pressure he faces as a guiding voice for fans and his efforts to remain down-to-earth despite his rise to fame.  

Read on for 10 Kendrick Lamar quotes about self-reflection, personal responsibility, success and more.

On hustle

“And I been hustlin' all day / This a way, that a way / Through canals and alleyways, just to say / Money trees is the perfect place for shade / And that's just how I feel.” -- “Money Trees”

On self-worth

“I can't fake humble just 'cause your ass is insecure.” -- “PRIDE.”

On potential

“Look inside of my soul and you can find gold / And maybe get rich." -- “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe”

On taking responsibility

“I want the credit if I'm losin' or I'm winnin'.” -- “All the Stars”

On hypocrisy

“I don't talk about these things if I haven't lived them, and I've hurt people in my life. It's something I still have to think about when I sleep at night. … The message I'm sending to myself -- I can't change the world until I change myself first.” -- interview with NPR

On legacy

“Build your own pyramids, write your own hieroglyphs.” -- “Hiii Power”

Related: 8 Inspirational Lyrics From Eminem

On being a role model

"I think one of my biggest battles within myself is embracing leadership. … It’s impossible to fight the title of role model. Especially when the type of music I make is so personal. ... I find out that they live their lives by my music.” -- interview with XXL

On creativity

“I can dig rapping, but a rapper with a ghost writer / What the fuck happened? / (Oh no) / I swore I wouldn't tell / But most of you share bars like you got the bottom bunk in a two man cell / (A two man cell) / Something's in the water / (Something's in the water) / And if I got a brown nose for some gold then I'd rather be a bum than a motherfuckin' baller.” -- “King Kunta"

On hope

“Would you say my intelligence now is great relief? / And it's safe to say that our next generation maybe can sleep / With dreams of bein' a lawyer or doctor / Instead of boy with a chopper that hold the cul-de-sac hostage.” -- “m.A.A.d City”

On reputation

“At 27 years old, my biggest fear was bein’ judged / How they look at me reflect on myself, my family, my city / What they say ‘bout me reveal / If my reputation would miss me / What they see from me / Would trickle down generations in time / What they hear from me / Would make ‘em highlight my simplest lines.” -- “FEAR.”

Related video: How This Artist Went From Doodling in School to Seeing Her Pieces in Museums

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