My third day playing saxophone, I was in front of a congregation. I still didn't know the names of all the notes. I was playing by ear, following along, but it was such an encouraging environment, I couldn't fail. It was all, 'Yeah baby, you sound real good' no matter what you play. It was a great way to learn.
A legacy is a lot of times determined by how people accept your music. And sometimes people's legacy starts late or starts early, or they last a long time or a short amount of time. As a musician, I've never taken an approach of wanting to try to control that because I don't think that I can.
My dad's also a musician, so jazz was always around the house. When I was 11, I developed an interest in it, and he took me to Leimert Park. At that time, it was the artistic hub of L.A., and it was right in South Central. The first concert I went to, I saw Pharoah Sanders at the World Stage club there, which only holds, like, 30 people.
There were two things I discovered when I toured with Snoop. One was that the band was all jazz musicians. The second was to instil in me a respect for other styles of music. From then on, whenever I played a new kind of music, I came with the same kind of open mind. What are they trying to do? What are they hearing? How do they see music?
When I was about seventeen, I had a group called the Young Jazz Giants. We played all originals. When we would finish playing, people would be like, 'Oh my God, that was so nice, that was so great.' But Pops would never tell us we were the best. He would give it to us straight, like, 'You're out of tune. You're dropping beats.'
When I was working on 'To Pimp A Butterfly' and 'DAMN.,' I'm really making music for Kendrick. It's a different mindset than when I'm making music for me. I'm trying to get into his head and figure out what he wants because it's his vision. That's what I expect from people when they're playing on my records.
When I started saxophone, my dad took me to my uncle's church, and I started playing there, too. At its best, music serves a greater purpose, and that showed me a whole other side to spiritual jazz, one which you can hear in the music - the gospel and blues feel, the soul that's embedded into the more avant-garde records.
L.A. is a big city that has a lot of music in it but is not necessarily known for it. A lot of musicians got lost in that. You can make a living; you can gig a lot within the city and never get out of it. That was something that me and my friends, our generation, were afraid of happening to us.
Malcolm X's separatist ideas were situational. If you think about where African-Americans were in the 1940s and 1950s, we needed to step away because that force, which is still present but more subdued, was very in your face, and we needed to take a step back just to get some clarity.
In general, in my life, one of the coolest things that I've been able to do is to go to different places and meet different people and see how they view the world and to learn what their music is and what their language is, and the food they eat and everything. That idea of the beauty of the vastness of the world has just been my life.