Album: DAMN. (2017)
Charted: 33 16
  • songfacts ®
  • Artistfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • The most braggadocio cut on DAMN, this track finds Lamar daring his rap rivals to call him out on disc.

    If I gotta slap a p---y-ass nigga, I'ma make it look sexy
    If I gotta go hard on a bitch, I'ma make it look sexy
    I pull up, hop out, air out, made it look sexy
    They won't take me out my element
    Nah, take me out my element

    Some fans have interpreted this chorus as a shot at Drake. Lamar seems to be mimicking Dreezy's sing-song style and the track's beat and structure significantly resembles his 2014 hit "0 to 100/ The Catch Up."
  • The song has a number of lines where Lamar appears to be taking his contemporaries to task. He delivers the final blow with the last lines of his third verse by referencing back to his 2015 album To Pimp A Butterfly.

    Most of y'all don't fade, most of y'all been advised
    Last LP I tried to lift the black artists
    But it's a difference between black artists and wack artists

    To Pimp a Butterfly dealt with various topics such as social injustices, and black empowerment. While Lamar tries to empower and motivate, he's not afraid to call out "wack" artists, regardless of the color of their skin.
  • The legendary DJ Kid Capri, who defined New York mixtapes in the early Nineties, supplies an energetic intro. In an annotation on Genius, Kid Capri explained that even he isn't quite sure what one of his lines means.

    Y'all know, what happens on Earth stays on Earth

    Said Kid Capri: "To tell the truth, I never asked Kendrick the meaning of it. I said what I said and I never asked him the meaning. He told me to say that part."
  • The song was produced by:

    English singer James Blake, whose second studio album Overgrown won the Mercury Music Prize in 2013. (The Mercury is an annual music prize awarded for the best album from the UK and Ireland.) Blake has since become a go-to collaborator for number of big name artists such as Beyoncé' ("Forward", "Pray You Catch Me") and Frank Ocean ("Godspeed", "Solo (Reprise)"). This is the first time that Blake has worked with Lamar officially, though the Englishman did provide a remix of the Compton MC's's "m.A.A.d city."

    Kendrick Lamar's Top Dawg Entertainment in-house producer Sounwave. In the past, Sounwave worked on some of Lamar's most forceful songs such as "King Kunta" and "Alright."

    Ricci Riera, who is one third of the production group T.H.C. Riera previously worked with Kendrick Lamar when he co-produced "Collard Greens," a Schoolboy Q track that features a guest verse from the Compton MC. Riera's name also appeared on 2016 cuts from Drake ("U with Me?") and Travis Scott ("sdp interlude").
  • James Blake's contribution came about through him sending Kendrick Lamar music over email. "I did send him a bunch of music and I was just hoping that he'd listen to it," he told The Fader. "I'd met him a few times before and they came to our show in LA. We'd been in touch various times and he'd come to the studio and listen to stuff and we got on and I sent him some music while I was on the road when I was in Mexico. I got an email and he said, 'Can you turn something in tonight?' I sent him a thing that I'd done and he took the chords and that became a part of 'ELEMENT.'"

    "I think that that was not the most organic way, sending music to someone by internet and it ends up in a tune but I just knew that I could trust them with my music because they have a flawless record of production, that unit that Kendrick works with. Sounwave and the rest have a really good understanding of how music works and I was really excited about to hear it," Blake continued. "When that got sent back I was like, 'Oh God. We should do this again.' We'll see about the future but hopefully we'll be able to sit down and piece things together. Either way actually, it's something great and firm about that happening that way."
  • DAMN. nearly had a different title. When Lamar guested on Big Boy's morning radio show on LA's Real 92, he revealed that he almost named his album "What Happens On Earth Stays On Earth," after the line uttered by Kid Capri on both this song and "DUCKWORTH.."

    Lamar said that the long title just "didn't read right" so he eventually plumped for DAMN. He explained: "There was so many different ways you could put it in my head. Damned if I do, damned if I don't. The loudness of the record. When I think about 'DNA.,' when I think of ' HUMBLE.,' when I think these records, it just felt like that."
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