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NPR Arts & Life

Rapper Kendrick Lamar Predicted To Be Big Grammy Winner

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The Grammys are tonight, and many believe the biggest winner is going to be rapper Kendrick Lamar.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALRIGHT")

KENDRICK LAMAR: (Rapping) Alls my life I has to fight. Alls my life I - hard times like, God.

GREENE: His album, "To Pimp A Butterfly," is a favorite for album of the year. And his song "Alright," which has become a kind of anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement, is favored to win song of the year.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALRIGHT")

LAMAR: (Rapping)We going to be all right. We going to be alright. We going to be right. Do you hear me? Do you feel me? We going to be all right.

GREENE: Kendrick Lamar's fans think a few Grammys would be long overdue for this musician. Two years ago, he lost the best rap album award to a white rapper named Macklemore. Even Macklemore thought he should not have won. He sent a text to Kendrick Lamar after the ceremony that read in part, (reading) you got robbed; I wanted you to win. This year, Lamar received a near-record-setting 11 nominations. The record for nominations is held by Michael Jackson for "Thriller."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THRILLER")

MICHAEL JACKSON: (Singing) You know it's thriller, thriller night. You're fighting for your life inside killer thriller tonight.

GREENE: I spoke with Kendrick Lamar in December just after the Grammy nominations were announced.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

GREENE: Your album received a pretty astonishing 11 Grammy nominations. How did you react when you heard that?

LAMAR: I'm still reacting to it (laughter), simply because, you know, somebody that always will, you know, idolize, Michael Jackson, has had 12 in one year.

GREENE: This isn't, I wanted to get more than Michael Jackson.

LAMAR: No.

GREENE: This is, I can't believe I got this close.

LAMAR: No, I'm glad I didn't get more than Michael Jackson be he will always be the greatest, period. Getting close, I will take that and I will live with it. Yeah, Michael Jackson needs to stay there with that 12, period. You know, he's the greatest of all time, so I have to put in a lot more work to even be considered on his level - years of work.

GREENE: This is so interesting to me because, you know, I've read about the influences on you - you know, other rappers, Eminem. But was Michael Jackson a big influence on you?

LAMAR: Definitely, man. "These Walls Can Talk" - you listen to that record on "To Pimp A Butterfly," the groove of that itself - definitely, definitely.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THESE WALLS")

LAMAR: (Rapping) If these walls could talk, they'd tell me to swim good.

GREENE: That is rapper Kendrick Lamar. He'll find out tonight whether he wins any of the 11 Grammy awards that he's been nominated for. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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