Produced By: Terrace Martin
Kendrick Lamar: “That’s the start of me recognizing everything I was doing throughout that day, it wasn’t real. Everybody has their own perception of what a ‘real nigga’ is. Most of the time a real nigga is a street cat or someone putting in some type of work and doing violence. That’s what we thought they was. Someone who’s about that life.
“But on that record, it was me getting an understanding of what real is, and my pops breaking down on that record. It shows the influence he had on my life. Real is taking care of your family. Real is responsibility. Real is believing in a high power, believing in God.
“Real is having morals. Real is carrying yourself in a manner where you’re not influenced by anybody else. You have your own mind, your own outlook on life. You’re not doing what’s just the trend or doing what people want you to do.”
“On that record, it was me getting an understanding of what real is, and my pops breaking down on that record. It shows the influence he had on my life. Real is taking care of your family. Real is responsibility. Real is believing in a high power, believing in God.” —Kendrick Lamar
Punch: “Terrace and Kendrick got a certain chemistry. They have been working together for years. Terrace is basically an honorary member of Top Dawg Entertainment. I mean, he’s been around from the beginning, even since some of the original cast members, so that’s family. That’s just like him working with Sounwave—they have their own particular thing.”
Terrace Martin: “I was in New York last December and we had some free time so we got a studio. I realized that I didn’t have no equipment on me, all I had was my laptop. Anybody that knows me knows I like to use my keyboard. So I had my homeboy email me Logic. I installed Logic and I had never used it before. So I was like, ‘Let’s do something different. Fuck all this. What do you feel like?’
“I had been playing with a Brazilian band at the Blue Note in New York, so I had been hearing samba for the last seven, eight nights. I ain’t even going to lie, when he first got into the booth and sung the hook, I was like ‘This shit is horrible.’
“But then he kept on stacking vocals and I kept hearing the harmonies and the vibe. It’s weird because I didn’t realize that he did sound like true samba, true Brazilian music with his tonalities in his voice and everything. He killed that shit.
“He channeled that real authentic Brazilian shit. He channeled that melody and a different rhythm in his voice, a different tonality. ‘Real’ is really a samba that’s unwritten. He channeled that shit as if he was playing in Stevie Wonder’s band for 20 years.
“It was kind of a special night, and we had cheap wine—like $2 bottles of wine and a bunch of girls that looked horrible and Brazilian music going on, but it worked out. It was Compton Brazilian music. Then we came back to L.A. and Dr. Dre mixed the hell out of the record. God, it was so loud.
“I’m extremely close with Kendrick and Jay Rock, cause we all started together. We got our first love for the money together. We got our first heartbreak together. We’ve known each other for seven or eight years now. I was always playing in jazz clubs too and that’s why we all love it because they like my jazz influence over the beats and I always like their sense of poetry over my music.
“Kendrick Lamar is the John Coltrane of today. Because if you ever get a chance to read the book—JC Thomas wrote it in the early ‘70s—it’s called Chasin’ The Trane. It describes Coltrane as a shy, soft-spoken person who would practice eight or nine hours every day.
“Coltrane was soft-spoken, like Kendrick, and he wanted to be better and better, like Kendrick. Everybody had been calling Coltrane the best, but he said, ‘Nah, I’m not the best. I’m going to get better, and better, and better.’ Same thing with Kendrick. Everybody’s calling him the best, and he’s saying, ‘I’m just trying to get better, and better, and better.’ He really cares about the art. Everything else is kind of like a blur to him.
"Coltrane always acknowledged the cats before him. John Coltrane acknowledged Charlie Parker, Sonny Stitt, Dizzy Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk. Kendrick always mentions Snoop Dogg, DJ Quik, Cube, Jay-Z—he always mentions all these characters in his interviews, and that’s a true humbling experience. I think artists like that go a long way because you have to know where you’ve been to know where you’re going.
“And Kendrick raps his fucking ass off like Coltrane plays his ass off. If you ever get the chance to be around Kendrick, he’ll talk to you and then he’ll go in his little corner and rap, and rap, and rap. He'll come up with different patterns and different phrases.
"In a nutshell, it’s deep. If you listen to John Coltrane Giant Steps, and you listen to Section.80 and listen to the cadence, it’s almost identical. Like hella 32nd notes, 8th notes—it’s deep. It’s just weird how that little motherfucker channels all that shit without hearing that stuff.
“This spirit of the jazz greats and the hip-hop greats combined and laid a baby in Kendrick Lamar. I’m serious. And that’s why to me he’s one of the best. Not because he’s the best rapper, but because he has a true understanding of the history, and of the art form itself. If you respect the art, the art will respect you.”