This name checks ex-Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel, while another Vampire Weekend track "Oxford Comma" mentions the Atlanta crunk rapper, Lil John. Drummer Chris Tomson explained this name-checking to State magazine: "I think that it can be very helpful describing something by using someone's name, as opposed to an emotion. Hopefully it will bring up different things for different people."
Frontman Ezra Koenig told the Daily Mail May 23, 2008: "The beats make this one of our most African sounding songs, but I think it also sounds Irish. I was listening to accordion music when I wrote it."
Peter Gabriel is such a fan of Vampire Weekend that he covered this song in collaboration with the British electropop band Hot Chip. He paid tribute to Vampire Weekend in Q magazine: "They have a unique style. It's very exciting for them to introduce African influences to a whole new audience. They do it with intelligence and enthusiasm. And a sense of humor."
Kwassa Kwassa refers to a dance rhythm from the African country of Congo.
Ezra Koenig told Mojo magazine that when he wrote this song and name checked Peter Gabriel, "I wasn't thinking of him as a person, I was almost using his name as an adjective."
Mojo asked Gabriel what he understands of this song's lyrics and his part in them. He replied: "I've got no idea why they stuck me in there other than it was sort of African-ish and I've done some African-ish things."