This slow-rolling track finds Kendrick Lamar hooking up with Rihanna. It is the first collaboration between the pair; however the Compton MC also references the Bajan star's negligent former accountant on the album's 12th track "FEAR."
Loyalty is a trait that Lamar highly values, which is evident throughout his oeuvre. During this track the Compton MC and Rihanna discuss the value and necessity of complete trust, faithfulness and dedication in both platonic and romantic relationships. All they really ask of friends, family, and lovers is loyalty.
I said, tell me who you loyal to
Is it anybody that you would lie for?
Anybody you would slide for?
Anybody you would die for?
That's what God for
After Rihanna asks the listener who they'll be loyal to, Lamar retorts that we should be loyal to God as well, continuing with the overall theme of religion throughout DAMN.
The sample at the start and throughout is a sped up, chopped, reversed, and pitched version of the vocoder-laden intro of Bruno Mars' "24K Magic
," sung by Mr. Talkbox.
There is an interpolation during the hook of Jay Z's Roc-A-Fella Records maxim from 2000's "Get Your Mind Right Mami."
It's a secret society, all we ask is trust
Lamar previously referenced the lyric on "The Heart Part 2."
The song's beat was aptly supplied by some of Kendrick Lamar's most loyal collaborators – producers who have worked with him since his early days.
Sounwave first hooked up with the Compton MC on his 2009 self-titled Kendrick Lamar
EP. Two years later, he produced a bulk of Lamar's mixtape/album Section.80
, Since then he's been one of K. Dot's most regular collaborators.
Hip hop producer Terrace Martin is the son of a jazz drummer and he has frequently incorporated jazz elements into his beats for Lamar. He first worked for the Compton rapper on his 2011 mixtape/album Section.80
DJ Dahi first worked with Lamar on his 2012 breakthrough Good Kid, m.A.A.d City
album and has become one of the rapper's most popular producers. Their collaborations include "Money Trees
," "The Heart Part 4
" plus four other tracks on DAMN
Terrace Martin recalled the story of the beat during an interview with Fader:
"'LOYALTY.' came about because I was working with Rapsody and 9th Wonder… It was a Bruno Mars sample off 24K Magic… I said, 'I wanna replay it, reverse it, change the key, add a third harmony - do all these things to it. But still make it sound just like the sample, but with a different edge.'… From there, me, Sounwave, and DJ Dahi got in the studio and started to put drums on that mother---er."
As soon as Lamar heard the beat, he knew he wanted Rihanna on it. Martin recalled: "Right there, on my mama, Kendrick said: 'Imma get Rihanna on this.' That day. Right when the drums started, he looked at me saying, 'Aye, I'm gonna get Rihanna on this record.'"
DJ Dahl recalled his contribution to the beat during an interview with Spin:
"I added the drums and I'm singing on there, too. Terrace had this loop and he brought it in and Kendrick just loved it. He was like, 'Yo, can you mess around with this?' Initially, he had the loop, but I think he gave it to Sounwave and he chopped it and kind of made the pattern. I'm a drummer, so I came in and just added drums to everything to get the pocket right.
Initially, I kinda went in there and did melodies and was like, 'here's the melody,' and then we wrote the words for me to sing my part. And [Kendrick] was already saying, 'We gotta get Rihanna on this. This has gotta be a Rih record.' From there, we structured it so when Rihanna came in, it would be easy. I didn't really know how it was going to turn out, to be honest, but I was definitely really happy because it's not a stretch record. People will think when they see those features that this is gonna be a super-duper radio record and be trash - but nah, it's got some structure."
The video was filmed by Dave Meyers (the director behind Lamar's "HUMBLE.
" clip) and The Little Homies (a.k.a. Kendrick and TDE's Dave Free). We see Lamar and his partner-in-crime. Rihanna, test their loyalty to one another in a series of dangerous scenarios.
Lamar performed to open the Grammy Awards in 2018; later in the segment, "LOYALTY." won for Best Rap/Sung Performance. Lamar went on to win three more awards for "HUMBLE.
Musician Terrance Hayes accused Lamar of ripping off his 2011 song, also titled "Loyalty." Hayes filed a suit in August 2020 claiming Lamar's cut "copied substantial qualitative and quantitative portions" of his work. Both tunes, it added, contain "substantially similar note combinations and structures, melodies, themes, rhythm, and kick and snare patterns."