Kendrick Lamar – “King Kunta” Song Review || #ForTheRecord

“King Kunta,” served as the third single of Kendrick Lamar‘s highly anticipated album, To Pimp A Butterfly, which if you already didn’t know was originally to be titled Tu Pimp A Caterpillar. And if you’re wondering why, all I’ll say is “Tupac.” Now do your googles.

Kdot’s musical “King Kunta” is a song you either hate or love at first listen. It’s a different sound, not only for Kendrick, but for hip-hop as a whole—which brings up the debate of whether TPAB is hip hop. But that’s another story. Check out the full album review here. It’s definitely hip hop, for the record…with a heavy funk and soul influence which, quite frankly, I’m not mad at. Then there’s the obvious Pac influence.

(The above was tweeted in reference to Pac’s Me Against The World.)

The record begins with an aggressive Kendrick asking “B*tch where you when I was walkin’?” before getting super cocky and declaring “now I run the game got the whole world talkin’, King Kunta.” After crowning himself King, Kdot riles up his audience while calling out the haters and wannabes.

Things really begin to make more sense by the second verse, if you were still aloof after the first. The album’s concept, or better yet title, can almost be summarized with the following lines if you really think about it.

When you got the yams (What’s the yams?)
The yam brought it out of Richard Pryor
Manipulated Bill Clinton with desires
—Kendrick Lamar, “King Kunta” | Verse 2

Nobody wants to pimp a caterpillar. Butterflies only. Not only are they far more attractive, but more powerful than a wonky caterpillar who can’t soar across the skies. The yams, a prevalent theme in the song, represent power. In African cuisine, yams are a key ingredient and have significance in some parts of Africa as a sign of social status.


“Richard Pryor is well known for setting himself on fire after free-basing cocaine, while Bill Clinton was overwhelmed by the “yams,” (or power) of the Oval office and took advantage of Monica Lewinsky, betrayed his wife and lied to his country.” (Word to RapGenius)

Get it? People sell their souls to the devil everyday. Not everyone can handle the power and the “Mortal Man” rapper makes it a point to make that known on this record.

Who got the yams? Kendrick does.

If you were indifferent about the song initially, it’s all good. But don’t you dare have the same opinion after listening to the album. I’ll admit, even I was a little skeptical about this record, but that all changed the minute I gave TPAB a full listen. In the same way that “i” paints an entirely different picture once heard within the album, “King Kunta” offers a better understanding alongside its counterparts.

What Kendrick did with this record was bold and while I would have personally liked to hear more rapping—to his defense—he did use Verse 3 to speed up his flow and drop a couple of noteworthy bars.

And again I ask—who got the yams?

*Ether Report Card: 8/10