Kendrick Lamar says he knew of his natural writing talent in the seventh grade when he forgot to do a poetry assignment.

“I actually said to myself, ‘When I get to school, Ima try to write it as fast as possible,'” the Compton, California rapper says to Mary Anne Hobbs on BBC Radio 6. “I did it. I had like 10 minutes to turn it in. I wrote it. I turned it in. Later that day, he was passing out the grades and I’m looking at all my friends like, ‘Man, I got a D. I got a C. Man, I failed this paperwork.’ I look at mine and it’s an A. From that moment on, I knew I had a gift to actually put words together and draw my own inspirations out on a piece of paper. That was the beginning when I started writing actual lyrics.”

Lamar says that, as a child, he idolized Michael Jordan, whom he wrote a song about on his 2010 Overly Dedicated mixtape.

“I felt like Michael Jordan can do any and everything,” he says. “I think that’s what prompted me, without even him being involved in music, that’s what prompted me to do music and want to be the best at it. ‘Cause I always felt like whatever he did, he wanted to be the best at it whether that was basketball, baseball, selling shoes. He’s the best at everything. That was definitely my hero.”

Lamar also explains the confidence he has that has allowed him to believe he could be the best at his craft.

“I think that came from really just being very, very curious,” he says. “After being curious, it comes from practice. After practice, come from a lot of failures and not being afraid to fall and fall again and fall again until I figured it out. I think that’s what made me a little bit more advanced than my peers not being scared to fall at doing something.”

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