Kendrick Lamar Releases New Single “King Kunta” (Analysis and Meaning)

kendrick lamar king kunta single

Make way Hip Hop, King Kendrick is back. And he is very clear about it in his latest single “King Kunta” from his upcoming album ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’. Like his previous single “The Blacker The Berry“, Kendrick addresses Black oppression in “King Kunta”. Looks like the new album is going to be single-themed. Alongside the rich meaning behind the song, it is also a musical beauty, as K Dot spits some fiery lines on some stripped down beats.

NOTE: Copyright authorities prohibit anyone from sharing the audio track of “King Kunta” yet. We will update the thread as soon as it is available.


Pre-order ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ Album by Kendrick Lamar on iTunes / Amazon


Who is Kunta?

Well, he wasn’t no King back then. Kendrick’s new track “King Kunta” refers to Kunta Kinte–an African man enslaved in America. He tried to escape the slavery several times and in the last time, the ‘masters’ cut off his feet so he could not run away. You will find the reference to that incident in the song too. Kunta Kinte’s story was made into a novel “Roots: The Saga of an American Family” by Kinte’s descendant Alex Haley. And in the song, Kendrick has referenced to him as a ‘King’.

Now that we know the back-story of the song, we will try to put the lyrics in to perspective.

Lyrics Analysis and Song Meaning of “King Kunta” by Kendrick Lamar

I got a bone to pick
I dont want you monkey mouth motherfuckers sittin’ in my throne again
(Aye aye nigga whats happenin’ nigga, K Dot back in the hood nigga)
I’m mad (He mad), but I ain’t stressin’

 

“King Kunta” song starts off with a rant–more of an angry realization. It has been two years since Kendrick released a new album. But other ‘rappers’ have not been silent. They have been running their ‘monkey mouths’ throughout Kendrick’s hiatus. And they seemed to have taken Kendrick’s throne (King Kendrick), but he says he is back. He is mad, but he cannot stress about it. For one thing it’s his own fault that he went silent for so long, and for another, there is much more important things to address than pick bones with the music industry.

Bitch where you when I was walkin’?
Now I run the game got the whole world talkin’, King Kunta
Everybody wanna cut the legs off him, Kunta
Black man taking no losses

The hook talks about Kunta and how Kendrick can be related to him. Kendrick is already a huge name in Hip Hop and Rap, and he is most likely the next biggest thing after Eminem. He says he runs the game and the whole world is talking about him–true. But when you are in the spotlight, that’s when everybody else starts fighting for it. Kunta Kinte’s top part of right foot was cut off as punishment for his 4 attempts to escape slavery. King Kendrick feels like others are trying to paralyze him too.

When you got the yams (What’s the yams?)
The yam is the power that be
You can smell it when I’m walking down the street
(Oh yes we can, oh yes we can)

Verse 1 has Kendrick talking about ‘yams’ which is a slang for cocaine. He speaks about the drugs issues in the world, as has he done in “The Blacker The Berry” too. He says how openly (freely) the drug trades are carried out in the streets–often protected by powerful hands who are there to stop them. “Oh yes we can” scream is a drug seller’s confidence as to what he does.

I can dig rapping, but a rapper with a ghost writer
What the fuck happened?
(Oh no) I swore I wouldn’t tell
But most of you share bars like you got the bottom bunk in a two man cell
(A two man cell)

It’s no secret that ‘quality’ of rappers has reduced over the years. There are talented rappers, but what they rap about usually amounts to nothing. Most of these rappers do not compose their music. They use ‘ghost writers’ to write lyric lines for them–which confuses Kendrick. Kendrick is an amazing lyricist. He writes his own lines. ‘Bars’ refer to the lines in a song. Most artists today use lyrics written by others.

And if I got a brown nose for some gold then I’d rather be a bum than a motherfuckin’ baller

As I have said countless times before, Kendrick is the most humble and realest rapper I have seen in a long time. He isn’t in the game for money (gold). He is in it for the love of it and actually to influence some people doing what he does best. He says he would rather be a bum than be a slave for money.

When you got the yams (What’s the yams?)
The yam brought it out of Richard Pryor
Manipulated Bill Clinton with desires

Kendrick deviates his attention to drugs again. Two famous examples for horrible consequences of drugs are given in this verse. Richard Pryor was a victim of drug abuse and Bill Clinton wrecked his personal life and career because of ‘yams’, the song says.

24/7, 365 days times two
I was contemplatin’ gettin’ on stage
Just to go back to the hood see my enemies and say…

Kendrick is reminiscing now; back in the day he was thinking about making it big, or even getting on a stage to perform. And that’s all he thought for 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. Now he wants to go back to his hood and say the hook part of the song.

You goat mouth mammy fucker
I was gonna kill a couple rappers but they did it to themselves
Everybody’s suicidal they don’t even need my help

“King Kunta” focuses on the rap industry again. Kendrick wanted to ‘kill’ his competition coming out with this new album. But there is literally no competition for him. The bad raps, music, lyrics, behavior of rappers, etc has already killed them all. There’s not a single rapper out there who can potentially take out Kendrick–lyrics and else wise, with the exception of Eminem.

This shit is elementary, I’ll probably go to jail
If I shoot at your identity and bounce to the left

This is a clever continuation of the previous lines above. Kendrick says he wanted to ‘kill’ some rappers, which means he wanted to out perform the competition. And Kendrick says, the way things are going for the African Americans, even this lyric line would be enough to frame him for murder. He says the legal system is ‘elementary’. “Shoot at your identity” refers to attacking the African Americans for just being African American.

Ah yeah fuck the judge
I made it past 25 and there I was
A little nappy headed nigga with the world behind him

Kendrick Lamar attacks the legal system in “King Kunta”. Like many oppressed citizens, he too is fed up of the ‘justice’ system. He cleverly included a dead judge in his album cover for ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’. Kendrick is 27 years young now. He says he got past 25 year milestone in his life–which is a big deal for an African American from the hood. And at 27, Kendrick is ahead of all of them.

Life ain’t shit but a fat va*ina
Screamin’ “Annie are you ok? Annie are you ok?”

“Annie are you Ok?” is a line from Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal”. And with this reference Kendrick touches two topics. First; ‘Annie’ is a simple, common name, which means, what MJ says in “Smooth Criminal” about Annie’s death, is a common thing that could happen to the simplest human being. Death of ‘Annie’ isn’t exclusive news! Second; Kendrick brings in the late great Michael Jackson into the picture. Michael Jackson is an African American by birth. This consolidates three revered African Americans of the world within “King Kunta” single–Kunta Kinte himself, Kendrick Lamar and Michael Jackson. Brilliant move, Kendrick.

Limo tinted with the gold plates
Straight from the bottom, this the belly of the beast
From a peasant to a prince to a motherfucking king

Drake has no basis to sing that he “started from the bottom”. He was born rich. Kendrick is the exact opposite. He was raised up in a neighborhood run by gangs and drugs–the true “belly of the beast”. He literally started from the drains of Compton and rose to a ‘Kingship’ via his raw talent for music, and even that was not an overnight thing. He progressed–from peasant to prince to king… Epic use of words!

[Outro]
(Funk, funk, funk, funk, funk, funk)
We want the funk
We want the funk
(Now if I give you the funk, you gon’ take it)

Outro is a stereotype? I’m not really sure.

That about sums up my understanding of “King Kunta” by Kendrick Lamar. If you get this song, you would have no trouble contemplating the talent Kendrick has in utilizing his vocabulary in a beautiful fashion to web a beautiful meaning to the lyrics. That is one of the many reasons why he is the best at what he does.

If you enjoyed the song review, make sure to leave a comment about your interpretation or understanding of “King Kunta”. If you have a different interpretation, do let us know. If I have made a mistake, do let me know. Let’s make this a conversation.

Also, make sure to pre-order “To Pimp A Butterfly” album which will be out on March 23, 2015. It is undoubtedly the most anticipated album of 2015, and it will NOT disappoint.

  • Aymen Abdelhamid

    “I was gonna kill a couple of rappers but they did it to themselves” is taken from Jay-Z’s song “Thank you”.
    The global beat is clearly from “Get Nekkid” of DJ Quik. “I’m mad (he mad)” may refer to James Brown in “The Big Payback” like he did for MJ, Kendrick’s got nice models ! Listen to “Ahmad – We want the funk”, “Curtis Mayfield – Kung-fu” and the 3 others which I quoted and I think your interpretation will be more complete.
    By the way, very nice review, I’m french so it can be hard for me to understand all those lyrics.
    I’d also say that people calling for the funk is an invitation to listen to the other song of his album after this 3rd. He reminds us that his not just a rapper but a real musician with a lot of influences (funk, jazz, …)

  • word is bond

  • it does

  • Trader Joe

    I’ll give you something else to consider about “yam”.

    yam is the chant if you will of the heart chakra.

    heartz of men by Tupac is also in reference to this chakra and contains a sample of Richard Pryor throughout the song.

    Tupac carries over to Kendrick w/o explanation.

  • Lol. It is pretty biased because I’m a huge fan. I think a positive view on a song review helps ‘cuz mostly fans visit to read it.

  • Suicide Bomber

    I like your review… You kinda exposing that you really like King Kendrick so its slightly bias, but really cool review nonetheless mate.

  • That wasn’t a very mature of me to say that. But Eminem is not trash. Some of his lyrics are far superior than any music that is being produced now.

  • “There’s not a single rapper out there who can potentially take out Kendrick–lyrics and else wise, with the exception of Eminem.” LOL, Eminem is trash, whites made him popular.

  • E

    100% agree with what everyone is saying. But I would add J. Cole as well to this conversation. My thoughts with the differences of the 3 is that Lupe and Kendrick have more “creative” and “in-depth” lyrics. I can’t find a better word to describe it, not saying AT ALL that J. Cole is not creative, in-depth and critical or downplaying him at all his in an amazing lyricist, but in my opinion2014 Forest Crest Drive was easier to interpret and analyze. What do you guys think?

  • DK

    I agree with Grant. He’s referencing a power structure – the powers that be, the industry or something bigger. He goes on to say “And if I got a brown nose for some gold then I’d rather be a bum than a motherfuckin’ baller” meaning he’s not selling out to it which I believe this is which most mainstream artists do to get boosted. The fact that he is signed to an independent label (not a subsidiary of the big 3) suggests this is his stance. The reason is not so much the love of the music but “selling out” comes at a cost.

    He goes on to talk about Richard Pryor and Bill Clinton being involved with it. Richard Pryor let out an inside joke Paul Mooneys Roast basically saying they had engage in homosexual acts to get success, this seems to be common theme appearing these days with mainstream artists trying to get big…read about lil wayne, birdman, dr dre…etc . If you are interested to learn more about that aspect look up “hollywood gravy”.
    It’s also possible he is talking about narcotics because there are allegations Clinton was receiving shipments trafficked by CIA (google Chip Tatum) but I think it is more likely he is referring to the power structure and the fact that the Lewinsky circus was a public distraction to an internal investigation of US government corruption at the time thanks to Sibel Edmonds coming forward either way the powers that be were involved.

  • Laura

    Good one! I knew it sounded familiar but i couldn’t remember from where.

  • Do you think it means power in the context of the song?

  • Yeah, I did not mean Kendrick Lamar is the one and only best person doing what he does. Lupe is an amazing artist. Wonder why he doesn’t get the same publicity as Kendrick does.

  • Grant

    Yams is not exclusively drugs but is more generally power. It comes from the novel “Things fall apart” where the power of a man was determined by the amount of yams they were able to harvest. Yams can be anything that gives someone power.

  • EdgarOP

    Nice review of the song…and Im a die hard Kendrick fan but he is not the only one doing great things. He is the only one with that kind of spotlight on that continues to do it big and i am proud of him….but Lupe Fiasco has a insanely great album nobody is talking about. Lyrically Lupe is absolutely the best.

  • Thanks a lot friend. Yes, Kendrick has certainly sparked a conversation around the world. I hope the message within the album doesn’t die away.

  • Rob

    Man awesome review, i got a bit of mix information reading Genius.com (their interpretation), and yours, but overall it address the same points, i guess that shows how great Kendrick is, he got the whole world talking.