It's been five years since Kendrick Lamar signed with Dr. Dre's Aftermath label, but the 30-year-old still remembers the first call he received from the veteran and super-producer. While speaking to Howard Stern for a recent interview, K. Dot detailed their first interaction. And his disbelief nearly didn't allow it to go down.
"Me and my boy Ali, we was eating at Chili's, I'll never forget," Lamar said. (The two were in town for a Tech N9ne tour stop on which their fellow TDE labelmate Jay Rock was opening.) "And we got a call, like, 'Yo, Dr. Dre likes your music.' And we're like, who the fuck is this on the phone? Fuck outta here, boy. We hung up. We might've blown it. But another call came in from somebody else, then another call came from somebody else like, 'Yo, they tryna reach out and figure who you with.'"
Kendrick admitted to feeling like his entire life changed in that moment. "It's evolving. That's evolution," he said.
But he still knew he had to prove himself and describes their first time in the studio together as intimidating, especially given the task Dre assigned him.
"I'll tell you this," Lamar began. "The first time was the moment I knew I've arrived because I'm not only meeting you, it's not an introduction, he plays a beat and say, 'Write to it. I wanna see you. I wanna see if this really you.'"
But Lamar didn't back down from the challenge. "It's a moment where you gotta say what I said to myself," he started. "'This is it, I have to put all my...everything that I worked for have to be in this session right here.'"