Routinely inviting hip-hop artists to perform at White House events, Obama has empowered performers and set precedents that Lamar hopes will be passed down to future generations.
“I think the world, not just hip-hop owes him,” Lamar told XXL. “We all have to give him his credit due for even allowing us into the building. We would probably never get inside that house ever again. Think about it like that. Rick Ross, Cole, Nicki Minaj, he really went for us to come experience it."
After eight years, moments like Obama opening the White House doors to Chance The Rapper, J. Cole, Common, Ludacris, Wale, Pusha T, Busta Rhymes, DJ Khaled and Timbaland for a roundtable discussion about the My Brother's Keeper initiative have started to feel more routine—but Lamar reminds us that these are things that seemed impossible in the not-so-distant past.
"This is something our grandparents always wanted to see, never thought in a million years, but [we can] pass it down to our generation to say, ‘Alright, I’m in here and I’m finna use my power to let ya’ll see how this thing works and I’mma drop some knowledge on y’all that a man can’t drop on everybody else ’cause y’all have the most influence.’”
Lamar also commented on what it was like to connect in person with such a high-profile person, adding, “You look at him as such a high figure in the world, but for him to embrace you and have a connection with you further than just being the President and make you feel like an actual friend. That’s probably the best moment and one of his best characteristics. I meet a lot of people in high places and sometimes they get so detached from the world and from the people, they don’t even know how to interact with you."
Revisit Lamar's "Pay It Forward" video about the importance of mentorship below, featuring photos from his meeting with Obama.