DUCKWORTH.

Album: DAMN. (2017)
Charted: 63
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • Kendrick Lamar concludes his DAMN. album with a true tale of a chance encounter back in 1984 between the rapper's father Kenny "Ducky" Duckworth and his label boss Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith before the two men knew each other. He recounts how the future Top Dawg Entertainment CEO nearly killed Lamar's dad when he was planning on robbing the KFC drive-thru spot that "Ducky" worked at.

    Whoever thought the greatest rapper would be from coincidence
    Because if Anthony killed Ducky, Top Dawg could be servin' life
    While I grew up without a father and die in a gunfight


    Anthony could never have imagined the consequences when he spared Ducky's life. Now, each of the three individuals discussed in the song are living a much different lifestyle. If Lamar's father had died, the rapper wouldn't have had a male role model and it is likely he would have been sucked further into the cycle of gang crime. Meanwhile, Anthony would have been holed up in jail rather than starting his label and signing a certain 16-year-old Kendrick Lamar.
  • Lamar recalled to Zane Lowe on Beats 1, the day that he learnt of the story:

    "About a year after I met Top Dawg. I met him when I was sixteen. My Pops came to the studio after I'd been locked in with him for a minute, and... we got a relationship now, bring my Pops through. He heard I was dealing with Top Dawg, but my Pops personally don't know him as Top Dawg, the industry know him as Top Dawg. Before he was Top Dawg, he was another name. So when he walked in that room and he seen that Top Dawg was this guy, he flipped. Still 'til this day, they laugh and they laugh and they trip out and they tell the same story over and over to each other."
  • The ethereal funk-laced beat was supplied by 9th Wonder, who first collaborated with Lamar on the 2011 Actual Proof posse cut "Super Genius."
  • 9th Wonder has a smooth and soulful production style that relies on samples. The beat-maker uses several different samples to construct this cut including Ted Taylor's 1978's "Be Ever Wonderful," The Fatback Band's 1975 "Let the Drums Speak" and Hiatus Kaiyote's 2015 "Atari."
  • Legendary DJ and producer Kid Capri contributes vocals on a total of four songs throughout DAMN including proclaiming "Just remember, what happens on Earth stays on Earth" at the beginning of this song. It is a repeat of a line he also said on "ELEMENT."

    "I came to the studio and recorded a lot of stuff," said Capri in an interview with Mass Appeal. "They took what they wanted, placed it where they needed to place it."
  • Capri detailed how Kendrick first asked him to be part of DAMN:

    "Kendrick reached out to me and asked me to come through. He sat there and told me what he was doing, what kind of album that he was making. When I thought about putting my presence on it, it made sense— it was definitely something I wanted to do… That's how it happened, he called me and I went to a studio down in Manhattan and we just went in. This was about in January or February. We didn't really have a relationship before this; I met him maybe once or twice in different places. But this right here definitely brought us together."
  • During an interview with comedian Dave Chappelle, Kendrick Lamar was asked to confirm the veracity of the story he tells in this song.

    "True story, and one of my favorite records on the album," Lamar replied. "The idea that I wanted to put across from that event was one of perspective. Everybody has their own perspective, and recognizing someone else's perspective blows my mind a hundred thousand percent. The way that event unfolded… I had to sit down and ask my pops, 'What was your perspective at the moment?' And, 'Did you ever think it would come around full circle like that?' That always fascinated me."
  • During an episode of the Rap Radar podcast, 9th Wonder revealed he'd originally given Kendrick 20 beats and he thought three of them were going to be used for three different Damn songs when TDE label executive Dave Free asked him for sample information about the tracks. However, it turned out the trio of instrumentations were stitched together to soundtrack this street tale. He recalled:

    "I played 20 beats for him and he like, 'I'm just going to live with these.' In June of 2016, he sent me a nine-second snippet of him pointing his camera at the computer. He played one of the beat switches and I texted him back, 'What's that!' He lol'd and I didn't hear from him for six months. TD Dave hit me like, 'Hey man, I need the samples for these two songs.' I'm thinking, 'Oh, I got two beats that made it.' Then he hit me back and said, 'There's a third beat I need a sample information for' and I was like, 'Okay, I got three.' Then he called me back and I said, 'Let me ask you a question, [do] I got three joints on there?' He like, 'Nah, it's one song.' I said, 'What?' He's like, 'Yeah man, it's the greatest story Kendrick has ever told.'"
  • The original title for the song was "Life Is Like A Box Of Chicken."

Comments

Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

Lajon Witherspoon of Sevendust

Lajon Witherspoon of SevendustSongwriter Interviews

The Sevendust frontman talks about the group's songwriting process, and how trips to the Murder Bar helped forge their latest album.

History Of Rock

History Of RockSong Writing

An interview with Dr. John Covach, music professor at the University of Rochester whose free online courses have become wildly popular.

Marc Campbell - "88 Lines About 44 Women"

Marc Campbell - "88 Lines About 44 Women"They're Playing My Song

The Nails lead singer Marc Campbell talks about those 44 women he sings about over a stock Casio keyboard track. He's married to one of them now - you might be surprised which.

Kristian Bush of Sugarland

Kristian Bush of SugarlandSongwriter Interviews

Kristian talks songwriting technique, like how the chorus should redefine the story, and how to write a song backwards.

Matthew Wilder - "Break My Stride"

Matthew Wilder - "Break My Stride"They're Playing My Song

Wilder's hit "Break My Stride" had an unlikely inspiration: a famous record mogul who rejected it.

Protest Songs

Protest SongsMusic Quiz

How well do you know your protest songs (including the one that went to #1)?