XXX.
by Kendrick Lamar (featuring U2)

Album: DAMN. (2017)
Charted: 50 33
  • songfacts ®
  • Artistfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • Kendrick Lamar teams up with Irish rock legends U2 on this world-weary track. Both acts have a history of socially conscious lyrics spiced with Christian allusions, so despite representing two completely genres of music, the pair have a lot in common.
  • Lamar raps the first verse, in which he spits about life on the streets and the lack of normal career paths for black youths. He then recalls a conversation with a friend whose son was killed over "insufficient funds." Devastated, the man seeks the Compton MC's advice. Though he wants to pray and move on, the generally peaceful K-Dot pushes him to take murderous revenge.

    Ain't no black power when your baby killed by a coward.
    I can't even keep the peace, don't you f--k with one of ours
  • The second verse provides the worldly context for this violence, as Lamar laments about the political state of America and continues his criticism of the USA's treatment of the black community. Meanwhile, during the chorus U2's Bono sings about the loss of the American dream.
  • There is an additional contribution at the beginning by Bekon, which is the moniker of the producer Daniel Tannenbaum, formerly known as Danny Keyz. He has also produced songs and contributed vocals for Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Eminem. Eight of the 14 total tracks on DAMN feature production or vocals by Bekon.
  • New York City rapper DJ Capri interjects "New Kung-Fu Kenny" at the beginning of the track. Lamar refers to himself as Kung Fu Kenny multiple times over the course of DAMN. The Compton MC's alter ego is a reference to Don Cheadle's character in the 2001 movie Rush Hour 2.
  • Kid Capri expressed his appreciation for Lamar's U2 collab to Genius. He said: "It's dope that Kendrick made this record the way he did with U2 on it; he made it real hip-hop. Instead of it being this big crossover record, he made it real authentic. That's what makes it powerful."
  • U2's one previous collaboration with a rap artist was the 2010 charity single "Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour)," which Bono and guitarist The Edge recorded with Jay-Z and Rihanna. Hov has also provided remix verses for some of their tracks, including "Sunday Bloody Sunday."
  • Co-producer Souwave recalled to GQ how this song came together:

    "Kendrick and Bono always talk back and forth through text and they always wanted to work with each other. It just never lined up," he said. "Whenever we'd be working on a project it just wouldn't feel right. Until this came along. It's like 'Yo, this is perfect timing.' So Kendrick reached out to Bono and the rest is history. It was just like magic. Literally we had the first two parts of the song done and we needed that last piece to be perfect. So we reached out to U2 and they just came with it. It was the perfect set up."
  • Co-producer DJ Dahl recalled his contribution to the track during an interview with Spin:

    "Initially, he had this record that he started with Mike WiLL and he had the basic structure of the record, but he wanted some more energy and more vibe. When I came in to work on the record, I went, 'Oh, this is dope, but I don't know, I gotta finish it and add some stuff to it.' I came in on the second part of the record and just turned it up some more with everything that makes it like just a more aggressive energy that I think represents what he's talking about - his almost revenge, I-don't-have-no-type-of-mercy type vibe.

    [Lamar] and Bono had been talking for a while about doing a collaboration. We wanted to change up the beat. Me and Sounwave got in and just produced the third part of the section together and it kinda fit, man. It was really just a thing we had that we didn't know if we were going to be able to use it in something. We kinda just tried it out like, 'Oh, this could sound dope after the chaos of the first two parts of the record.' It's funny [people were] kind of expecting U2 to be trash, but it was good."
  • Asked by Rolling Stone how Bono ended up on this song, Kendrick Lamar replied:

    "We had a [different] record we were supposed to be doing together. He sent it over, I laid some ideas to it, and we didn't know where it was going. I just happened to have an album coming out, so I just asked him, like, 'Yo, would you do me this honor of letting me use this record, use this idea that I want to put together because I'm hearing a certain type of 808, a certain drum to it.' And he was open to it."
  • Lamar opened the Grammy Awards in 2018 with a very unusual performance of this song, where he was joined by a troupe (troop?) of soldier-themed dancers. Bono and The Edge of U2 emerged to perform their section of the song, then cameras cut to Dave Chappelle, who offered some commentary before Kendrick blasted into his Jay Rock collaboration "King's Dead," interspersed with another Chappelle interlude. "The only thing more frightening than watching a black man be honest in America is being an honest black man in America," the comedian said.
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 1

  • Brandon from Latrobe,paI'm not a big rap fan but, Kendrick is the only hip hop/rap artist I like. I love Slipknot and heavy metal but, Kendrick speaks the truth and we need more musicians like him.
see more comments

Director Nick Morris ("The Final Countdown")Song Writing

Nick made some of the biggest videos on MTV, including "The Final Countdown," "Heaven" and "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)."

Pete AndersonSongwriter Interviews

Pete produced Dwight Yoakam, Michelle Shocked, Meat Puppets, and a very memorable track for Roy Orbison.

George HarrisonFact or Fiction

Did Eric Clapton really steal George's wife? What's the George Harrison-Monty Python connection? Set the record straight with our Fact or Fiction quiz.

Mike Scott of The Waterboys - "Fisherman's Blues"They're Playing My Song

Armed with a childhood spent devouring books, Mike Scott's heart was stolen by the punk rock scene of 1977. Not surprisingly, he would go on to become the most literate of rockers.

Tom Bailey of Thompson TwinsSongwriter Interviews

Tom stopped performing Thompson Twins songs in 1987, in part because of their personal nature: "Hold Me Now" came after an argument with his bandmate/girlfriend Alannah Currie.

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.