Welcome back to my explanation of “Untitled 2 (Blue Faces)” by Kendrick Lamar. If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, you really should–it lays the foundation for what Lamar’s song is about.
If you haven’t seen the video yet, here it is…
Meaning of the second half of “Untitled 2 (Blue Faces)” by Kendrick Lamar
Hook 2: Getting more personal
In the second version of the hook, Lamar gets more personal. He’s not asking why someone else is sad, he’s asking “why I’m so sad?” and saying “[t]hey say I’m down on my luck / And it’s something I gotta have.” However, instead of merely wishing, Lamar can have what he wants and decides to “hit the bank today.” He gets his money, but it’s still “breaking me down.” The meaning behind this is confusing, but it seems to be a one-off mention of the difficulty of having so much money or possibly of how having so much can change how a person lives. The one thing for sure is that Lamar is emphasizing the fact that he does have money and a lot of it.
Bridge: What Lamar loves
In the bridge, Lamar lists several things that he loves: “I love God, I love speed, I love drink, I love me.” He claims to be a man of faith, and to be happy with himself. He also enjoys nature: “I love oceans in the deep.” In the third line, he repeats his love of himself and adds his love of “women.” He finishes his list of loved entities or things with “I love God.” Lamar is showing us that he’s a diverse person and can’t be summed up in only one way. He seems to be admitting to vices or to the ways that he likes to enjoy himself. But he’s more than just a partier–he is deeper than that, thus the mention of himself, God, and the oceans.
He finishes the bridge by admitting, “I’m scared of godspeed / Sometimes.” According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary online, “godspeed” comes from the Middle English (Middle English was spoken in England from 1150-1500 AD) “God speid,” which come from a phrase that means “God prosper you.” For Lamar, “godspeed,” probably means “success” or “good luck.” Lamar’s money is breaking him down and gives him access to whatever he wants, and sometimes it frightens him; he wonders if he’ll be able to control himself when he needs to.
Verse 3: Confronting the doubter
In verse 3, Lamar is ready to take on those who don’t think he’s such a great guy. But first, he explains, “Wrote this song looking at a broke home maybe / You know the poverty stricken, the little broke boy and baby.” Lamar’s inspiration for writing is people living in poverty or in broken homes.
Now, Lamar introduces his doubter–the person who questions whether he’s really qualified to be writing these lyrics. The person says, “Kendrick–Americans–they sho’ is crazy.” Kendrick challenges the person: “Why?”
The “[s]omebody” tirades against Lamar for being “messed up” and “breaking my good luck.” The thesis of what this person is saying is this: “Lamar, you want things to get better, but you’re living a good life now, and I’m still struggling. You’re a hypocrite, and you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
The person says that Lamar is “wishing for miracles” and “crying hysterical.” He accuses Lamar, saying that he’ll “[s]ettle for everything” and “complain about everything.” He compares their lives by saying that Lamar’s soul may “crack,” but his “world [is] amphetamines.” He has little to live for and is “living to pay rent.”
He also accuses Lamar of being out of touch with his audience: “Your projects ain’t it. I live in a hut.” While this person “paid [his] way through / Praying to Allah,” Lamar was playing his “way through, dealing with Wi-Fi”–something the accuser doesn’t have.
The accuser tells Lamar to “[g]o f**k yourself” and warns him about “talking to strangers” (or Lamar’s other listeners) instead of staying true to his people. He continues, “We all came on the boat looking for hope / And all you can say is that you’re looking for dope.” This appears to be a reference to slavery and the slaves’ desperate need for hope of some kind–the accuser (maybe a symbol for how Lamar views the African-American community’s view of himself) says that Lamar’s ignoring the bigger issues that bring them all together and instead writing songs about lesser issues.
The accuser “raps up” (pardon the pun) by singing that Lamar’s “pain ain’t mine half the time.” The last two lines of the verse are difficult: “A brand new excuse ain’t nothing to me / See I made my moves, with shackled feet.” I think the accuser is saying that his life is much harder than Lamar’s. By including this, Lamar seems to be acknowledging that he’s had the help of some benefits others didn’t have.
Interlude: Going back to Cape Town
Recently, Lamar visited Cape Town, a city in South Africa and found that they “struggle ten times harder and was raised crazier than what I was . . .” Perhaps, then, this Interlude, which includes the words “Cape Town” being repeated seven times, is a reminder to his accuser to have perspective, or maybe it’s Lamar saying that he’s seen even worse than what his accuser has seen. It could also be Lamar thinking back to his experiences in Cape Town to find inspiration for what he needs to say next.
Verse 4: All the awesome rappers
Kendrick Lamar begins the verse by singing, “Cornrow Kenny”–probably a reference to his current hairstyle and to his own name. He then raps about driving cars at speeds over 100 miles per hour, probably a preference to his career and his rapping: “All morning with the mixed dashboards triple digits.” He adds car sound effects too: “skrr.”
Most of the rest of this verse, then, follows suit with the first few lines; Kendrick Lamar raps about his success and all that he’s been able to accomplish, though he also spends a bit of time mentioning other rappers.
Lamar talks about his own “finesse,” “[p]alisade views with some sex,” and how he “lost a lot of love for missionary”–perhaps being “tempted” by illicit sex was draining for him.
He goes on to compliment other rappers, producers, DJs, and partners in his own rapping success, mentioning Top, TDE, Dave, Q, Rock-a-lack, Moosa, Ali, Remy, Punch, Sounwave, and Mackwop. If you want to know more about these rappers, Genius.com has some information on who they are. The overall effect of this section is that we see that Lamar is surrounded by a community of fellow rappers who are all doing very well and seem to be good friends with Lamar.
Outro: But I’m the best
In his Outro, which in the video is a crescendo of fast rapping and intense rhythms, Lamar explains how no one’s going to stop him. He sings, “Level two, level two”–he’s taking things to the next level by saying, “No, I’m not done / You ain’t gotta tell me that I’m the one.” He raps, “I could put a rapper on life support.”
He says that he’ll “[g]uarantee something that none of you want,” and tells people that to stop him they’ll have to “hold me down and . . . yell something like / “Rent is like twenty-five hundred a month.” It’s as if these people who don’t want to hear what he has to say are trying to accuse him of hypocrisy for the lifestyle he lives.
But Lamar asks, “What if I empty my bank out and stunt?” almost as if he’s asking if they’d accept his message then–that’s the question he leaves his audience with. He finishes by accepting his status as “the one”–perhaps meaning a great rapper or a hypocrite who will continue saying what needs to be said even as he is working out his own issues.
Final song meaning: “Untitled 2 (Blue Faces)” by Kendrick Lamar is about two things: hard work and identity. Lamar encourages people to work hard for what they want, and he faces those who question whether he’s really qualified or has enough integrity to say the things he does. In the end, Lamar’s own hard work, connections to other rappers, and success speak for themselves.
Kendrick Lamar’s “Untitled 2 (Blue Faces)” is beautiful, and I think it’s beautiful because it’s deep and honest. Lamar wrestles with his own self doubt and his own haters. He asks hard questions and seems to admit that he doesn’t know all of the answers. I like “Untitled 2 (Blue Faces),” and I hope you enjoyed it as well as my explanation.
Clifford Stumme has his master’s in English literature and is a blogger and a college instructor/center-director at Liberty University. He likes juggling and reading/writing, and he is married to the wonderful and beautiful Wife April. He thinks pop music is awesome. Seriously awesome.