GQ put Kendrick Lamar, perhaps the greatest rapper of his generation, on the cover of their 2013 Man of the Year issue. But the West Coast rapper's handlers found the accompanying profile "offensive," and "racial overtones" in the profile ruined the honor.
The Compton native was one of five people the men's magazine chose to grace their annual year-end celebratory covers, alongside Justin Timberlake, Will Ferrell, Matthew McConaughey and James Gandolfini. In an interview with Steve Marsh, Lamar talks about dealing with his sy high expectations, the trappings of newfound fame, his simmering beef with Drake over Lamar's perceived disses in a verse released over the summer, and the ensuing drama ("scrap") at a Diddy-thrown MTV Video Music Awards after party. Lamar was set to perform at the Man of the Year party on November 12, but he was pulled from the bill at the last minute.
Marsh's focus on the headline grabbing stories that dominated Lamar's year -- a pretty common feature in magazine profiles -- is apparently what set off Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith, the CEO of Top Dawg Entertainment, the West Coast record label Lamar calls home. Tiffith released a statement Friday explaining why Lamar pulled out of the performance. Tiffith said he was honored one of his artist's received a GQ Man of the Year cover, but didn't take kindly to the way Marsh wrote about his artist or his label:
Instead, the story, written by Steve Marsh, put 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. As a result of this misrepresentation, I pulled Kendrick from his performance at GQ's annual Man Of The Year party Tuesday, November 12th.
He reiterated his reluctant complains with the GQ honor: "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. Our reputation, work ethic, and product is something that we guard with our lives," Tiffith said.
GQ's editor-in-chief Jim Nelson released a statement in response Friday evening. Basically, he's baffled there was any issue taken with the profile:
"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."
Tiffith took issue with parts of Marsh's profile, particularly his focus on drama and his focus on the violent, bloody history of Compton rap. Marsh invokes Tupac, one of Lamar's inspirations, and Death Row Records throughout the profile. At one point compares Tiffith to notorious Death Row impressario Suge Knight, a convicted felon. Here's the part of Marsh's profile that likely inspired Tiffith's ire:
A few hours after the VMAs, we were back in Kendrick's hotel room and everybody was in a lull, staring at cell phones, waiting for news about afterparties. A plan coalesced to hit a party being thrown by Diddy at the Dream Downtown hotel. But one of Kendrick's Top Dawg boys leaned back and said, "Aw, man, I can't go to no club."
Kendrick spoke up.
"We have to go."
"Look at you! We have to go. You're never we have to go."
"You know me," Kendrick explained. "I only go when there's a point. Usually the point is just niggas drinking. But walking through the club the week after I released the 'Control' verse? That's a point!"
Twenty minutes later, Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith, basically TDE's Suge Knight, asked if I had had a fun day. I said that I had and that I was surprised by their discipline. "You guys seem so calm," I said.
"Well," Tiffith told me, "we're going to have to call it a night with you, because we about to get uncalm. You understand."
That the passage in question involves an exchange with Tiffith that happened months ago should be enough for everyone to draw their own conclusions.