Kendrick Lamar Releases New Single “King Kunta” (Analysis and Meaning)
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.
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 motherf*ckers sittin’ in my throne again
(Aye aye ni*ga whats happenin’ ni*ga, K Dot back in the hood ni*ga)
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.
B*tch 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 f*ck 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 motherf*ckin’ 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 f*cker
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 sh*t 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 f*ck the judge
I made it past 25 and there I was
A little nappy headed ni*ga 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 sh*t 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 motherf*cking 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!
(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.