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How Kendrick Lamar Strives to Make Timeless Rap Albums

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Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly is one of the best albums of the year—and also one of the most relevant. Recorded as the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum and while conversations around police brutality took off on a national stage, the record became the soundtrack of protests and offered many listeners a message of hope in a year filled with dismaying headlines about racism in America. Yet Lamar hopes his songs will be just as meaningful decades from now as they are today.

“One thing I understood about myself and my music is it’s not really a concept that I will want you to grasp one day—I want it to live forever,” he told TIME during a photo shoot that appears in the magazine’s Person of the Year issue, on stands now. “I want to continue to have something that’s not microwavable in a world today where our attention span is pretty much lost. We need something that we can hold on to, so in doing that, I’m [going to] continue to make the music I want to make and say the things I want to say, whether you agree with it or not.”

Erik Madigan Heck for TIMEKendrick Lamar, December 2015.

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Write to Nolan Feeney at nolan.feeney@time.com