“He’s a real-life genius”. Those are the thoughts jazz musician Kamasi Washington was left with after spending time in the studio with Kendrick Lamar on To Pimp a Butterfly.
Kamasi was drafted in to add the layers of strings prevalent throughout the record, and said that when he arrived Kendrick and his Top Dawg team had already created something beautiful. He wondered what more there was he could do to it.
“He took me in and they played me the record and I was just blown away,” Kamasi said on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. “He was so hands-on. Day one, he was like, ‘Kamasi, write some stuff to this.’ I’m like, ‘Okay, do you want to give me the files and I’ll go home and come back?’ He’s like, ‘No, you’ve got to write this here. You don’t get to leave with anything.’”
“So I’m just sitting there listening to the music, and I have a little piano set up, and Kendrick’s just sitting there on the couch watching,” he laughed. “But it wasn’t a vibe of like, ‘Let me make sure you don’t do anything I don’t want you to do.’ It was more like, ‘I’m just curious to see how this process works…
“Most artists, you don’t even meet em.”
Kamasi, the winner of the 1999 John Coltrane music competition, went on to describe what else Kendrick gets up to in the studio, and sounded genuinely in awe while relaying the story.
“I would see him do superhuman stuff. One time Terrance brought in a new beat, and I saw Kendrick just create a whole song while he was hearing it for the first time. And it felt like a complete song… That’s amazing.”
Marc chimed in, “He’s got that thing that you got from Coltrane, that sort of tapping into the spirit, being in the moment, and moving through it.”
It’s a great story to add to what’s already, not even two years after its release, considered a classic album.
The full podcast is available on iTunes.