Lenny Kravitz talks new album, racism and not being 'black enough'

Patrick Ryan

It has been nearly 30 years since Lenny Kravitz released his debut single "Let Love Rule," and the laid-back rocker is still making music with a message. 

"It's just as important and relevant as it was when I said it the first time," Kravitz says of his breakthrough hit. "Maybe even more so now." 

His latest call to action is album "Raise Vibration," out Friday, a funky, soulful collection of songs about opening one's heart and mind. The dulcet "Here to Love," for instance, is a self-described peace anthem, and  "Who Really Are the Monsters?" is a blistering critique of corporate greed and corrupt leaders. The eight-minute "It's Enough" is most overtly political, featuring clips of Black Lives Matter protests and Colin Kaepernick’s anthem kneel in its music video

Lenny Kravitz is back with new album 'Raise Vibration,' out Friday.

The song is a statement against racism, as many people continue to feel threatened by policies from President Donald Trump's administration, Kravitz says.

"I don't understand a lot of what he's doing, but he's the president and he's there, so now it's really about just keeping on your own path and seeing how this all pans out," Kravitz says. "We have a lot to fight for, and there's just so many people now who are awake to what's going on. The younger generation is really seeing they need to stand up and be heard." 

Kravitz, 54, also gets intimately personal on the countrified "Johnny Cash," which wrestles with the grief of losing his mother, "The Jeffersons" star Roxie Roker, to cancer in 1995. To this day, he cherishes the values she instilled in him as a child: honesty, hard work, integrity – lessons he has imparted to his own daughter, actress Zoe Kravitz, 29. 

"She reminds me of my mom a lot," Kravitz says. "She only had a few years with her before she died, but she embodies her spirit." 

Born to a black mother and white father, Kravitz similarly taught his own daughter to embrace her biracial identity. (Zoe's mother is biracial actress Lisa Bonet, his ex-wife.) Zoe has spoken about losing an audition for "The Dark Knight" for being too "urban," an experience her father can relate to. 

"When I was a kid, my mom said: 'Your father is this. I'm this. You're just as much one as the other. Be proud of both sides of your heritage, but society is only going to see you as black. They're not going to see the wonderful mix,'" Kravitz says. "I had a lot of problems in the beginning (of my career) trying to get signed and put (music) out there into the world because people expected a certain thing from me based on the color of my skin. The white people would say, 'Well, it's not white enough.' The black people at the record labels would say, 'It's not black enough.' So I was caught in the middle, and they didn't know how to market me. It was a fight, but I'm still here almost 30 years later."  

Lenny Kravitz, left, and daughter Zoe Kravitz.

Now, Kravitz says, there is "nothing better" than seeing his daughter pursue her passions and succeed. She recently wrapped shooting the second season of HBO's hit series "Big Little Lies," whose cast includes Meryl Streep and Kravitz's ex-fiance Nicole Kidman. 

"Reese (Witherspoon) has been very wonderful to Zoe, as has Nicole, who I obviously know very well, which is interesting, because she knew Zoe as a younger girl," Kravitz says.

Asked if he and Kidman are still friendly, Kravitz says "absolutely. I'm just so happy that they have their own relationship now as women, as well."

Kravitz is gearing up for an eight-date North American tour later this month in support of "Raise Vibration" before embarking on a lengthier arena trek next summer. The allure of touring hasn't waned with age. 

"We just did two months in Europe, which were really strong with sold-out crowds at big, outdoor gigs," Kravitz says. "It's a lot of work and moving around, but it's always fun."