Kendrick Lamar Is Right to Be Offended by GQ's Man of the Year Article
Last Tuesday, GQ Magazine had its annual "Men of the Year Awards," revealing the dudes they deemed best of 2013. The honorees: Justin Timberlake, Matthew McConaughey, Will Ferrell, Kendrick Lamar and the late James Gandolfini. The covers of each are, in GQ fashion, sharp and personable, with all of the talented gentlemen looking as handsome as ever. It's too bad that Kendrick Lamar and his manager and friend, Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith, weren't huge fans of the article that came out of Lamar's time spent with interviewer Steve Marsh — so they were no shows at the party.
Can you blame them, though? In his statement about why he pulled Lamar from performing at the GQ party, Tiffith said (quite diplomatically) that the cover story...
[P]ut myself and my company in a negative light. Marsh's story was more focused on what most people would see as drama or bs. To say he was "surprised at our discipline" is completely disrespectful. Instead of putting emphasis on the good that TDE has done for west coast music, and for hip hop as a whole, he spoke on what most people would consider whats wrong with Hip Hop music. Furthermore, Kendrick deserved to be accurately documented. The racial overtones, immediately reminded everyone of a time in hip-hop that was destroyed by violence, resulting in the loss of two of our biggest stars. We would expect more from a publication with the stature and reputation that GQ has.
Tiffith is speaking reasonably. Marsh expressed exaggerated "awe" at the fact that Lamar was so "disciplined," making observations about how the rapper abstained from weed and booze. Because that's all hip-hop is, right? Tiffith went on to say that his criticism of the article did not mean he disrespected GQ:
While we think it’s a tremendous honor to be named as one of the Men Of The Year, these lazy comparisons and offensive suggestions are something we won’t tolerate.
But as soon as he used the words "racial overtones," the rest of Tiffith's statement fell on deaf ears. There's nothing that hardens ears to criticism like being accused of (real) prejudices. Editor-in-chief Jim Nelson responded to Tiffith's in expected but still disappointing "we did nothing wrong!" style:
Kendrick Lamar is one of the most talented new musicians to arrive on the scene in years. That's the reason we chose to celebrate him, wrote an incredibly positive article declaring him the next King of Rap, and gave him our highest honor: putting him on the cover of our Men of the Year issue. I'm not sure how you can spin that into a bad thing, and I encourage anyone interested to read the story and see for themselves. We were mystified and sorely disappointed by Top Dawg's decision to pull him at the last minute from the performance he had promised to give. The real shame is that people were deprived of the joy of seeing Kendrick perform live. I'm still a huge fan.
So many classic trademarks of ignorance — Nelson seems like he didn't even read, let alone comprehend, Tiffith and Lamar's concerns that Marsh's article perpetuated negative and racially charged tropes about hip-hop; he sloppily toots GQ's horn, as if Lamar should be eternally grateful for the honor; and he actually flips the blame onto Top Dawg Records — they deprived their fans! How dare they? If only Nelson had responded in kind and apologized in any capacity. And what does writer Steve Marsh have to say about the criticism? Well, nothing yet.
It's actually very man-of-the-year-esque for Lamar to stand behind his principles.