My VIBE magazine family is back with a brand new issue for 2013. On the upcoming ‘Big List’ issue, Kendrick Lamar and Miguel were chosen to represent as today’s top musical geniuses. VIBE Music editor John Kennedy talked to the fellas about their critically acclaimed projects and artistic approach to music. Stay tuned for their solo covers.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken artistically? One that went over surprisingly well and one that might’ve gone over people’s heads?
MIGUEL: Shit, well this whole album—overall it doesn’t sound like any other R&B album that’s been put out in the past decade. The only album I would say sounds as alternative would be A Beautiful World by Robin Thicke, and that was like 2003. Since then, I haven’t heard a commercial album sound as alternative as this one. Including those psychedelic influences for R&B was a huge risk. I honestly was nervous to put it out. I remember having a conversation with Mark, my A&R, like, “Man, I don’t know if they’re gonna get this shit. It may be bad.” And he was like, “I love the album.” And I love it, too; I’ll be proud of it when I’m 80, because I know what I was going through when I was writing, producing and creating it. It’s really cool to get attention from outlets that never really paid attention to me or my music before this album. On the opposite end, risks that I didn’t even know I was taking—I look back on photos [from All I Want Is You] and the way I was dressed is not something I’d do again. If anything, when you do take risks, you become either more confident because you’re going to be criticized and speculated, and those conversations are gonna cross you and you’re either sure of yourself and what you believe in or you’re torn down.

Read Kendrick’s response and more from their VIBE cover story after the jump…


Kaleidoscope Dream and good kid, m.A.A.d city are both masterpieces, but was there anything you didn’t get to do that you have in mind for next go-round?

MIGUEL: There’s definitely a feature or two that I wish I could have had the time to put on there, but overall, I set out to create an album that sounded like what makes me love music. Next time around, I intend on pushing the boundaries. Just traveling, you start having conversations with new people, seeing new things, hearing new music and finding new things that inspire you. Naturally those things make their way into my music. I can’t tell you exactly what the next album would sound like, but it’s gonna be different from this one. Just like this one was different from the last. That’s just a way of documenting my fucking life.
KENDRICK: Yeah, I agree. I think it’s just a feature thing. The idea was to have Nas on “Sing About Me.”
MIGUEL: That would’ve been ill.
KENDRICK: I never got a chance to reach out to him. I was so wrapped up in getting the music done and samples cleared and mastered. I didn’t wanna rush the process; I actually wanted to sit in the studio and vibe with him. [It was] the only thing that I had a vision for that I sought out to accomplish, but in due time. God willing, for sure.

What did you envision him adding to that song?
KENDRICK: It was really one of those things where I just wanted to go into the studio and play him the record and whatever inspiration he had drawn from it, I’d just have him there, and he’d just go. He’s a genius. The record is self-explanatory, but he may have heard something different that might take it to the next level. That’s what makes a great feature and a collab for me, somebody that could take the song to the next level. He would’ve done just that. It’s a great record now, but to have his expertise on it would have been crazy.

Eminem could’ve been another great collabo. It sounds like you pay homage to him toward the end of “Backseat Freestyle.”
KENDRICK: You could listen to my whole album and see that it pays homage in my cadence and my flow. But at the same time, it’s still me. When I have that aggression in the record like that, that’s tricks that I learned being in that studio and dedicating myself. Being a student. Eminem was definitely a sought-out player that I always respected and looked up to.

Miguel, you’ve looked up to Usher, living in his shadow as a writer for years. Was it validating to be in the same Grammy category as him? And how badly did you want to beat your mentor?

MIGUEL: Not necessarily, and it’s only because I don’t measure my success up to the next individual. That’s not the gauge for me. I have so much respect for him and the amount of creativity that he has. I’m humbled that he knows my story and is rooting for me as much as I’m rooting for him. I do look at it as a benchmark saying, “Okay, you are moving forward as an artist, this is a blessing, this is a new level for you.” I’m a firm believer that we have to be the best people that we can be as individuals; it’d be a sin to measure ourselves up otherwise.

When it’s all said and done, what do you want to accomplish?
MIGUEL: Kendrick is poised to be the next staple in hip-hop and I certainly intend on becoming that for R&B, working my ass off and taking risks.
KENDRICK: Definitely. The biggest goal is to say, “Damn, we did it.” Think about Jay-Z and R. Kelly and everything they accomplished. I don’t know if they’re on talking terms now, but I’m sure they’d say, “Damn, we did it,” 20 years down the line. That’s the ultimate high—to accomplish what you sought after, just like those two did.