INSIDE A HOLLYWOOD STUDIO, Clippers guard Chris Paul is shirtless, baring his ravaged skin to Kendrick Lamar. The Compton-bred rapper? Uncharacteristically tongue-tied. "Looks like I got a bunch of hickeys, right?" Paul says, pointing to the circular discolorations on his newly separated shoulder. "I tore this and this, so they put these suction cups on me. And then they stabbed me, to pull out all the bad blood." "Blood?! That's crazy," Lamar says, grimacing as if some of it had been squirted directly into his eyes. "That's another reason I couldn't do what you do." Lamar does what he does just fine. In 2012 the 26-year-old released his major-label debut, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, a platinum album that cemented his status as one of rap's most compelling storytellers. Leading the applause for Lamar is his new pal Paul, who, in his third season in LA, has led the once-moribund Clippers to title contention and his locker room to harmony. In CP3's bag of tricks: making Lamar's smooth sound a permanent fixture in the team's iRotation. A week into the new year -- and less than a week removed from a shoulder-first tumble to the hardwood that should sideline the Clippers captain into February -- the two gathered for a sit-down to discuss the busy, and lucrative, nexus of sports and music.
Sam Alipour: You're both LA-based celebrities. Have you two ever crossed paths?
Chris Paul: Actually, it's crazy -- we first connected on Twitter.
Kendrick Lamar: [Laughs] Yup.
Paul: I tweeted that I was listening to his album on the way to a game. I was following him on Twitter. I don't know if he was following me.
Lamar: Yup. And then I sent him a DM.
Paul: And I told him, "Every flight, every bus ride, your album is our team's theme music."
Lamar: It's dope because I wasn't feeling like I was in the starlight. That was before Good Kid, probably during Section.80.(1) I'm a new artist, so I'm looking at him like he's famous, know what I'm sayin'? [Both laugh] I let him know that his trade to the Clippers was perfect timing because what's about to happen to LA is going to be great for the music scene. Then we chopped it up. He's a real good dude.
Kendrick, growing up in Compton, I'm guessing you claimed the Lakers?
Lamar: I gotta go, day one, with the Lakers, of course. I support the Clippers too, because they're LA, but I ain't about to jump on their bandwagon just because of my boy right here, know what I'm sayin'? [Laughs]
Paul: I respect fans that've been straight Lakers and don't come over. I respect that loyalty.
Lamar: But it's all love, because it's all LA.