Kendrick Lamar dances on Compton Swap Meet roof in ‘King Kunta’ video

Wan Joon Kim and his son Kirk work behind the counter in their stall in the Compton Fashion Center on June 18, 2012. Kim became an impresario of the rawest gangster rap emerging from 1980s Compton.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Kendrick Lamar is already well-known for paying serious homage to his origins. He continues his appreciation campaign in the new video for “King Kunta,” one of the more triumphant tracks off Lamar’s latest album, “To Pimp a Butterfly,” which includes a subtle nod to one of Compton hip-hop’s most important landmarks.

Similar to his last video, for “i” (the first single off “Butterfly”; language warning), the Director X-helmed clip for “Kunta” is a love letter to Compton, featuring the rapper and his friends dancing through his hometown from bodegas to a gold throne in a driveway to what looks like the living room of someone’s mom.

The most significant of these stops, though, is the one that shows up at the very end: the Compton Swap Meet, where some of the most seminal local albums were first sold.


The Swap Meet (also known as the Compton Fashion Center) was once home to the Cycadelic Music Corner, the record shop owned by the late “godfather of gangster rap” Wan Joon Kim where gangsta rap records like N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton” were first sold, long before any other retailers would touch the violence- and drug-laden music. Kim, whom many of those rappers called “Pops,” died in 2013.

Wan Joon Kim of Cycadelic Records helped gangsta rappers start

The center closed its doors in January after being sold to Wal-Mart. TMZ reported that the building is scheduled to be remodeled as “a retail store.” Times emails to Wal-Mart’s press team were not immediately returned.

The “Kunta” video premiered Wednesday in New York and Los Angeles, where Interscope and Top Dawg Entertainment, Lamar’s labels, projected the clip on billboards in Times Square and at Downtown’s L.A. Live, respectively. It appeared online late Wednesday night.

Though the final cut only features a few frames of it, amateur videos and photos surfaced online last week of Lamar dancing on the building’s rooftop for a decent amount of time as fans cheered in the parking lot.

Lamar has been putting his nose to the album-promo grindstone in the wake of the March 23 physical release of “Butterfly” (it was released digitally a week ahead of schedule). Last week, he tweeted an invitation to his fans to meet him on Sunset Boulevard and Melrose Avenue, where he performed two sets on the back of a flatbed truck as 5K runners trailed behind as part of a running-shoe promotion.


Watch the full video here (language warning).

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