A third track from Kendrick Lamar's highly anticipated "To Pimp a Butterfly" (out March 23) has dropped. The song, "King Kunta," is a relaxed warning about the dangers of abusing fame and power.
Its name a reference to the protagonist of Alex Haley's epic slave narrative "Roots," "Kunta" finds Lamar drawing on influences from the early '80s groove of Sugarhill Gang to the laidback West Coast bounce of DJ Quik's '90s reign. With the help of some callback vocalists, he raps, "Where were you when I was walkin'? Now I run the game, got the whole world talkin'/King Kunta, everybody wanna cut the legs offa when you got the yams." The yam, he explains, is "the power that be" -- a social and political status that should be used for good, like Richard Pryor did with his merciless comic material addressing race.
He's also wary of what happens when you "misuse your influence," as demonstrated by this cryptic line (which is reminiscent of his eviscerating verse on Big Sean's technically unreleased "Control"): "I can dig rappin'/But a rapper with a ghostwriter?/What the ... happened?/I swore I wouldn't tell." (Anyone know who he's referring to? Taking bets now.)
"Kunta" is a clear split between Lamar's first and second singles from "Butterfly": the joyful, Isley Brothers-sampling self-love anthem "i" and the blisteringly dark, self-loathing "The Blacker the Berry," which critics -- including our own -- have lauded for displaying the immense breadth of complex emotions that are slated to arrive with Lamar's album later this month.
And, of course, what would a beat like this be without a "We want the funk!" call-and-response outtro? Listen to the song here. (Be advised: The lyrics in all of these songs, like the Parental Advisory-labeled album they come from, are moderately explicit.)