"If I can say anything about this record," says Kendrick Lamar, "it's that it will connect again." Lamar, 27, is in the middle of sessions for his next LP, and the stakes are high: It's the follow-up to 2012's good kid, m.A.A.d. city, a platinum-selling breakthrough that established Lamar as the most exciting young rapper alive. His debut tracked the experiences of a thoughtful kid growing up in gang-scarred Compton; now, Lamar has to decide how much he wants to extend that story."There was a lot I left out of good kid – it could have been a 30-track album," Lamar says. "There are a few new [songs] that can tie in with what I was talking about."
Lamar has yet to announce a title or release date for the new album. It definitely won't be called United States of A.L.A.R.M., as has been reported ("That's a good title, though," he says, laughing. "I'm thinking, what are they talking about with that acronym?"). Asked whether the album would be out this year, he says he's "not sure at all."
But Lamar is making steady progress: The first single, "i," is out today, and Lamar has plenty of other songs in the can — including "a bunch of tracks" with mentor Dr. Dre. "He's just gone into the lab and made beats," Lamar says of Dre. "He's trying to find that next thing – just really elevating himself and the team to grow as a creator." (Lamar has also been working with Digi+Phonics, the in-house production team for his label, Top Dawg Entertainment.)
Lamar says to expect "aggression and emotion" from the album, as well as some straight-up freestyling. "There's one particular [untitled] track I'm really excited about," he says. It's one where I just went in the booth and spilled out what I want to say at that moment. I just freestyled, because I really just wanted to grab the raw emotion of it."
What shouldn't you expect? Cameo appearances — so far, Lamar hasn't called on a single guest MC. "I have so much to say!" he says, laughing. "It's somewhat selfish of me." In fact, Lamar doesn't like a lot of company in the studio at at all. "I really don't like nobody in the studio but me and the engineer because opinions can affect you."
Lamar has more or less been living in the studio. "I'm definitely a studio rat. I can go in the booth and do it all day, every day," he says. "Sometimes I go into the studio and study music. Just sit in there and vibe out to music that's not really of the — Marvin Gaye or something like that… I haven't been listening to a lot of the music that's out right now. You can get influenced by it."