(Credit: Kenny Sun)

Old School Archives

How Kendrick Lamar wrote 'King Kunta'


Kendrick Lamar was already well on the right path to becoming the next golden boy of hip-hop following Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. Still, his next move was integral, and his comeback single, ‘King Kunta’, confirmed that Kenny was a rare talent.

The track circumvented the trends of the day and felt like a throwback to the halcyon era of the West Coast scene throughout the ’90s while still feeling of importance to 2015. It’s an underdog story that everyone can get behind, and it will make anyone feel like they are capable of taking on the world.

On the effort, Kendrick took many inspirations from his own life and integrated them into ‘King Kunta’. Speaking to NME in 2015, Lamar revealed: “I grew up watching this series called Roots, my family put me on it, and one of the characters was called Kunta Kinte. It’s basically me remembering that, having my own journey in the music business, just putting out words, and this character, they actually chopped his foot off.”

The rapper compared that with the treatment he’s faced along the way but swore that nobody would be able to get away with carrying out such barbaric crimes on him, and he’ll remain perched on his throne. 

Elaborating on the track, Kendrick said: “There’s a lot of other meanings, in there, which you’ve got to break down, but, overall, it’s just the energy of the track. It’s a story of struggle, and standing up for what you believe in, no matter how many barriers you’ve got to break down, or how many escape routes you’ve got to run to tell the truth. That’s something I think we can all relate too.”

After finishing speaking about the track’s lyrical themes, Kendrick then touched on the musical side of things and revealed it was a homage to the late rapper Mausberg’s song ‘Get Nekkid’ with DJ Quik. He passed away in 2000 when he was just 21, and Lamar decried how he “never got to reach his full potential.”

He continued: “At the same time, I was taking it there with substance, but when I stand in a room where I’m from, that song we sampled always lives in my community. Immediately, that track made me feel like that, ‘I got a bone to pick, I don’t want your monkey mouthed motherf*ckers sittin’ in my throne again.'”

The success of ‘King Kunta’ didn’t come as a surprise to Kendrick, who added: “I knew it would have an impact just because with everything that’s going on, it’s one of those sounds that you haven’t really heard in a while, but, it still has a relevant new West Coast type of feel. It was fun too, making it and seeing the response.”

Revisit one of the greatest hip-hop tracks of the last decade below.