There are few more decorated figures in music than Kendrick Lamar, and in truth, he deserves even more accolades. It’s feasible that he’ll become one of the most celebrated artists of all time, but there’s one person Kendrick doesn’t want to surpass.
For Kendrick, no greater musician has ever lived than Michael Jackson, who he holds in the highest regard. Famously, the rapper paid tribute to MJ during his halftime performance at the Super Bowl when he donned a black leather glove just like his hero.
Following the success of Kendrick’s 2015 album, To Pimp A Butterfly, Lamar almost eclipsed a record set by Jackson’s seminal Thriller but came up short. Kenny received 11 nominations at the Grammys, while MJ scored 12 in 1984.
This was a relief for Kendrick, who didn’t feel like he deserved to break the record set by the ‘King of Pop’. He told Jimmy Fallon: “The legend, I wouldn’t want to go past that though. I can’t fathom being as great as Michael without putting in the work. 11 is perfect, he is legendary, and I’m glad he’s at 12.”
He also told the New York Times: “Michael will forever be the greatest…I would never want to even think about putting myself on the same level as Michael, simply because I haven’t put in the work that he did.”
As far as Kendrick is concerned, Jackson is the pinnacle of music, and he’s yet to believe he’s anywhere close to operating near to the level set by Michael during his imperial phase.
Even before he almost equalled Jackson’s record, Kendrick had already expressed his love for the late pop star. During a Q+A session with viewers of CBS in 2014, Kendrick was asked if he could collaborate with three artists, dead or alive, who would they be? He replied: “That’s easy, Tupac, of course, Michael Jackson, that would be a crazy collab, and Marvin Gaye, I don’t know how that song would turn out, but it’d be insane.”
Although we’ll never get to hear the pair collaborate, Kendrick did sample lyrics from ‘Smooth Criminal’ in ‘King Kunta’ and also name-dropped him in ‘Mortal Man’, which you can listen to below.