Kendrick Lamar complexion song review lyric analysis and meaning

Kendrick Lamar – “Complexion” Song Review, Lyric Analysis and Meaning

Yesterday, Kendrick Lamar‘s new album ‘To Pimp A Butterfly‘ was released for a short period of time on iTunes. And now it’s back again to a ‘pre-order’ stage. I do not know what kind of marketing strategy this is, because the full album is now circulating through the Internet for free. The scheduled original release date is still March 23, 2015.

Anyway, this short release of ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ gave us a chance to grab a copy and go through it. We came across the infamous “i”, “The Blacker The Berry” and “King Kunta” tracks and many other great songs. One song caught our attention immediately, and that is “Complexion” the 12th track on the album. The song is titled “Complexion (A Zulu Love)” and features a verse by rapper Rapsody. The song is an outcry for colorism–stereotyping due to the color of the skin.

Listen to “Complexion (A Zulu Love)” by Kendrick Lamar

So what do you think? There’s quite the meaning packed behind those spitfire lyrics by both the artists. We believe it will be worthwhile to take a stroll through these lyrics.

“Complexion” Song Review, Lyric Analysis and Meaning

The title, “Complexion” refers to the different skin colors of humans–the main division being Black and White, whereas there are probably a dozen more skin color variants in the world. And what does skin color mean? Absolutely nothing!

The song starts off with the hook;

Complexion (two-step)
Complexion don’t mean a thing (it’s a Zulu love)
Complexion (two-step)
It all feels the same (it’s a Zulu love)

As we said before, Kendrick Lamar too emphasizes on the fact that being born of various skin colors mean nothing when it comes down to a man’s behavior. A “Zulu love”, according to Rap Genius, is about how the Zulu tribe (African tribe) welcomed a white skinned man to live with them. Where has the Zulu love in America?

[Verse 1]

Dark as the midnight hour or bright as the mornin’ sun
Give a f*ck about your complexion, I know what the Germans done
Sneak (dissin’)
Sneak me through the back window, I’m a good field n*gga
I made a flower for you outta cotton just to chill with you
You know I’d go the distance, you know I’m ten toes down
Even if master listenin’, cover your ears, he ’bout to mention

Here Kendrick brings out the two main skin color variants in the world–dark skin as dark as the midnight and white skin as bright as the Sun. But what does it mean? Nothing. You think Blacks are violent? Kendrick reminds what the Nazis did to the world, who were Germans, who are white skinned.

African Americans are treated as inferior. They have to sneak through back windows to not get attacked. The reference to ‘cotton’ dates back to when slavery was prominent and African slaves were used in cotton farms.

Kendrick is committed. He is ‘ten toes down’ in the work he does. And he asks his fellow slaves to cover their ears because the ‘master’ is about to speak.

[Verse 2]

Dark as the midnight hour, I’m bright as the mornin’ Sun
Brown skinned, but your blue eyes tell me your mama can’t run

The second line of the above verse is cryptic. Kendrick addresses a child who has brown skin and blue eyes. African Americans don’t inherit blue eyes. The Whites have blue eyes. So this is a clear indication to the ‘rape’ that took place between white masters and slaves. How do we know the child was born of rape? “your mama can’t run” away from slavery.

Even if master’s listenin’, I got the world’s attention
So I’mma say somethin’ that’s vital and critical for survival
Of mankind, if he lyin’, color should never rival
Beauty is what you make it, I used to be so mistaken
By different shades of faces

Kendrick raps a straight forward message in “Complexion” as well as in the entire album. The world is watching him–even the masters. So he goes on to say what he wants to say in the song. He gives a survival tip for us humans–don’t fight over the color of your skin. It is pointless, and there’s beauty in all types of skin colors. A little side-not from the author: If you believe God created this world, so did he create the Blacks. And if he did create the Blacks, they really can’t be an inferior race, can they?

Then wit told me, “A woman is woman, love the creation”
It all came from God then you was my confirmation
I came to where you reside
And looked around to see more sights for sore eyes

Oops, what did I just say? Kendrick thinks the same way about the Creation. God created this world and everything in it (if you believe so). Then he did create all the races, colors and shapes. If God was satisfied with his creation, who are we judge another race of people? The color doesn’t matter, if you are a woman, you are a woman–be it whatever the skin color you have.

Let the Willie Lynch theory reverse a million times with…

One of the saddest things that happened to humanity is the Willie Lynch theory. William Lynch (Willie Lynch) was an 18th Century slave owner who made a speech to other slave owners on how to control the slaves. What he said was, the best way to keep the slaves under control was to exploit their differences ‘such as age and skin color in order to pit slaves against each other’. And Kendrick wants to reverse the theory. It means the differences in age, gender and skin color should be used to unite each other–not enslave them.

[Verse 3]

Let me talk my Stu Scott, ‘scuse me on my 2Pac
Keep your head up, when did you stop? Love and die
Color of your skin, color of your eyes
That’s the real blues, baby, like you met Jay’s baby
You blew me away, you think more beauty in blue green and grey

Rapsody takes the mic to aid Kendrick on “Complexion”. She brings in Stuart Scott and Tupac nicely into the scene to set the tone for her verse in this Black empowerment anthem.

She talks about the eye colors, and the world’s generalization that green, blue and grey eyes are more beautiful. She nicely brings in Jay-Z’s daughter, who is named Blue Ivy.

All my Solomon up north, 12 years a slave
12 years of age, thinkin’ my shade too dark
I love myself, I no longer need Cupid

Rapsody references the 2013 movie ’12 Years a Slave’ which depicts the story of Solomon Northup. She says she doesn’t need Cupid to find love for her, because of the misconception that Black women are not beautiful. She says she loves herself and that’s all that matters.

Enforcin’ my dark side like a young George Lucas

A nice reference to Star Wars, directed by George Lucas.

Light don’t mean you smart, bein’ dark don’t make you stupid
And frame of mind for them bustas, ain’t talkin’ “Woohah!”

Common misconception that light/white/bright means smart and dark/black means stupid, is addressed here. And she calls them, people with a closed mind.

The new James Bond gon’ be black as me
Black as brown, hazelnut, cinnamon, black tea
And it’s all beautiful to me

The super heroes of Hollywood, such as James Bond, were always White. Why? Nobody knows. But Rapsody has hope for the future. She thinks the next James Bond will be Black. And she doesn’t even want it to be Black. She says she is OK with brown, hazelnut, cinnamon or black skin. To her, they are all beautiful.


Barefoot babies with no cares
Teenage gun toters that don’t play fair, should I get out the car?
I don’t see Compton, I see something much worse
The land of the landmines, the hell that’s on earth

Kendrick comes back into the song for one more verse. He narrates what has become of his hometown-Compton. Babies who are so poor to even afford shoes, and teenagers with guns hijacking cars and worse. Throughout the years Compton has gotten worse. He calls it hell on earth.

That about rounds up our analysis of “Complexion (A Zulu Love) track by Kendrick Lamar. Note that this is not the full lyrics to the song. Some parts were emitted based on my preference. But all the main parts are broken down and analysed to the best of my knowledge.

We believe it is a great song. What do you think?

If we have made any mistake analyzing the song make sure to notify us of it via a comment. Also if you have your own analysis, let us know.

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