“Alright” [Kendrick Lamar] – lyrics for English students

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Alls my life I has to fight, n****

  • This phrasing comes from old depictions of how black slaves or servants would talk during earlier American history. These days, sometimes people talk like this to make a joke or even a serious reference to working like a slave. It’s a very informal and cultural form of phrasing, and really only people within a trusted community would make this reference with each other. Otherwise, it can sound racist or offensive.

Alls my life I…

Hard times like, “Yah!”

Bad trips like, “Yah!”

  • A “trip” can sometimes mean an event or situation that is happening. “We had some bad trips” may not mean a bad vacation, but an actual bad situation he was going through. A lot of people say “Like” as an interjection before they give more information or reveal what someone said. It can replace the word “said” in this sense in casual speech. “Michael was like, I need a quarter. And I was like, No, Michael, I don’t have a quarter.” (Correct: Michael said, I need a quarter.)

Nazareth, I’m f***** up

  • In Christianity, Jesus resides and grows up in Nazareth. To be “F’d up” is the same as “Messed up,” “Jacked up,” or “Screwed up.” It means that something is wrong with him, he has serious problems, or has been damaged very badly. This goes for both the physical and emotional senses. It’s more profane, so try to use those other options if you can 😉

Homie, you f***** up

  • *”Homie, you’re…” “Homie” is another word for friend or someone you trust.

But if God got us, then we gon’ be alright

  • *”Then we’re going to be…” One use of “Got” is to say that you have someone’s back, or you’re looking out for their wellbeing. “I got you, man.” {I’m here to support you, man.}

N****, we gon’ be alright

N****, we gon’ be alright

We gon’ be alright

Do you hear me, do you feel me?

  • To “feel” sometimes means to understand what someone is saying on a deeper level. “Do you feel me?” (Do you understand what I’m saying?) “Yeah, man, I feel you.”

We gon’ be alright

N****, we gon’ be alright

Huh? We gon’ be alright

N****, we gon’ be alright

Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon’ be alright

Uh, and when I wake up

I recognize you’re looking at me for the pay cut

  • His managers look at him when they want to cut down someone’s salary.

But homicide be looking at you from the face down

  • *”Homicide is looking at you…” This is an incorrect but very common way for people to speak in vernacular language. “I be doing… They be watching…” It’s very common in street or community settings but is very unusual in a work or professional setting. “From the face down” means all over your body or completely.

What MAC-11 even boom with the bass down?

  • *”What MAC-11 even booms…” A MAC-11 is a kind of machine gun pistol generally with a silencer. This may compare his rapping (making noise, being provocative) to the sound of booming gunshots, since he can’t make a point or provoke anyone with a quiet song, low bass.

Schemin’, and let me tell you ’bout my life

  • *”Tell you about…” “Scheming” here probably refers to people making plans or plotting against him. “Scheme” is normally used for big plots against a large entity, but we use it sometimes to talk about a personal attack too.

Painkillers only put me in the twilight

  • “In the twilight” refers to a weird state between night and day. He’s not fully conscious, present, etc. Also, in case you didn’t know, “painkillers” is a casual way to call pain medication.

Where pretty p**** and Benjamin is the highlight

  • *”are the highlights.” Benjamin Franklin is on the $100 bill. Money and women had been a big part of his life, or fame in general.

Now tell my momma I love her, but this what I like

  • *”This is what I like.”

Lord knows

  • This is a popular exclamation, especially among the religious or Christian community. It’s said when an outcome is unknown or when something is too much to understand. “Lord knows what I’m going to do to pay the rent.” Also used to state a fact. “Lord knows I have worked harder than anyone else in the company.”

Twenty of ’em in my Chevy, tell ’em all to come and get me

Reaping everything I sow, so my karma come in heaven

  • *”So my karma comes…” To “reap what you sow” is an old adage that means you get what you give, or what goes around comes around. To “reap” literally means to collect, as with crops. To “sow” literally means to plant or put seeds in the ground.

No preliminary hearings on my record

  • “No preliminary hearings” means he doesn’t want him or his group to testify. Everything they’ve done remains silent, and the true judgment will come in the afterlife.

I’m a m************ gangster in silence for the record, uh

  • “For the record” is another way of saying “By the way,” or “Just so you know.” “I had a lot of fun this weekend, for the record (just so you know).” It has a double meaning here since the record can be a musical recording as well.

Tell the world I know it’s too late

Boys and girls, I think I gone cray

  • *”I think I have gone…” “Cray” means Crazy. It was made popular by Jay-Z and Kanye West in their song “N**** in Paris.”

Drown inside my vices all day

Won’t you please believe when I say

Wouldn’t you know?

  • This is a funny way to express some interesting information. “Wouldn’t you know? Jerry bought himself a pony! Isn’t that weird?”

We been hurt, been down before

  • *”We’ve been…” To be “down” here means to feel down, sad, or hurt.

N****, when our pride was low

Lookin’ at the world like, “Where do we go?”

N****, and we hate po-po

  • “Po-po” is a slang term for the Police.

Wanna kill us dead in the street fo sho’

  • *”They want to kill us dead in the street for sure.” “Fo sho” is a colloquial way to pronounce “for sure.”

N****, I’m at the preacher’s door

My knees gettin’ weak, and my gun might blow

  • *”My knees are getting weak…”

But we gon’ be alright

N****, we gon’ be alright

N****, we gon’ be alright

We gon’ be alright

Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon’ be alright

N****, we gon’ be alright

Huh? We gon’ be alright

N****, we gon’ be alright

Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon’ be alright

What you want you, a house⁠? You, a car?

  • *”What do you want, a house? A car?” This is another very colloquial way of speaking. “You want you a nice watch? He got him a good job!” This might come from “He got himself a good job!” but in a shorter version.

40 acres and a mule? A piano, a guitar?

  • This comes from a special order during the American Civil War when some freed black slaves were offered 40 acres of land and a mule as a sort of reparations (compensation) for their suffering. The order was only enacted for a short time before being dismissed.

Anything, see my name is Lucy, I’m your dog

  • This line is full of double and hidden meanings. Mainly, Lucy is a reference to Lucifer, the Devil. “Dog” in slang often means a friend, a person of trust, much like a real dog (It’s often spelled “Dawg” in slang, though).

M***********, you can live at the mall

I can see the evil, I can tell it, I know it’s illegal

  • In slang, saying you “can tell it” means you can identify it. “Does it look like rain outside? Hmm, I can’t tell it.” A similar phrase is, “call it.” “Hmm, I can’t call it.”

I don’t think about it, I deposit every other zero

  • “Zero” here refers to lots of money.

Thinking of my partner, put the candy, paint it on the Regal

  • “Partner” sometimes is used in referring to a close friend, and in this sense does not show any kind of romantic relationship. “Candy” refers to candy paint, or colorful paint used to paint cars. The car he talks about is a Buick Regal.

Digging in my pocket, ain’t a profit big enough to feed you

  • *”There isn’t a profit big enough…”

Every day my logic get another dollar just to keep you

  • *”My logic gets another dollar…”

In the presence of your chico… Ah!

  • “Chico” means Boy in Spanish. He says “boy” because it’s a popular way for some people to talk. It just means Friend. “I’m your boy, man, let me in. Kendrick is my boy, I should call him more often.”

I don’t talk about it, be about it, every day I sequel

  • “Don’t talk about it. Be about it.” This is a popular way to tell someone to do what they say they’re going to do. Similarly, “I’m about it,” means that you do what you say you’re going to do. “Are you about it? Oh, he’s not about it.” He turns the noun “sequel” into a verb. This is very common in English, even if the dictionary definition of the word is not a verb. He does bigger and better things every day, basically. Makes a sequel of his previous day.

If I got it then you know you got it,

  • *”If I have it then you know you have it”

Heaven, I can reach you

Pat Dawg, Pat Dawg, Pat Dawg, my dog, that’s all

  • Pat Dawg is apparently a cousin of Kendrick’s who died. It’s also a double meaning with the term, “pat dog,” like petting a dog.

Bick back and Chad, I trap the bag for y’all

  • These are other references to dead friends of his. To “trap” is to make money, basically. It usually means to make money selling drugs or doing other illegal things, but nowadays it’s used for making money in general. “Bag” is a slang term for Money.

I rap, I black on track so rest assured

  • Again, he turns the color black into a verb. This could mean he “acts black” in his music, which is a thing here in the U.S. Acting stereotypically black. He might also mean that he represents black culture or issues in his songs. He could also just “black out” or be out of his body in a higher consciousness when he raps. It’s an interesting line. “Rest assured” is a way to tell someone to be calm, you don’t have to worry. “Rest assured, we will find the man who did this to you, ma’am.”

My rights, my wrongs; I write ’til I’m right with God

  • “Rights” and “wrongs” refer to good and bad deeds or actions. Rights can also be civil rights. To “be right with someone” is to get on their good side, or to have no problems with them.

Wouldn’t you know

We been hurt, been down before

N****, when our pride was low

Lookin’ at the world like, “Where do we go?”

N****, and we hate po-po

Wanna kill us dead in the street fo sho’

N****, I’m at the preacher’s door

My knees gettin’ weak, and my gun might blow

But we gon’ be alright

N****, we gon’ be alright

N****, we gon’ be alright

We gon’ be alright

Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon’ be alright

N****, we gon’ be alright

Huh? We gon’ be alright

N****, we gon’ be alright

Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon’ be alright

I keep my head up high

I cross my heart and hope to die

  • “Cross my heart and hope to die,” is an old swear that people, especially kids, used to say to make a promise or make a wish. It’s still said nowadays, but not in such a serious way as before.

Lovin’ me is complicated

Too afraid of a lot of changes

I’m alright, and you’re a favorite

Dark nights in my prayers

.

  • This song has a lot of identification with the rights of black Americans and social injustice. Police brutality, political deception, and black on black violence are brought up in bits throughout the lyrics. There is heavy use of more stereotypical “black” sayings and wording here, as well as the repetition of the N-word. This gives the sense that Kendrick is communicating directly to black people, almost in an exaggerated way, but the language is very authentic and direct. The rights and treatment of minority groups in the U.S., especially those of black people, have been a hot-button topic and caused controversy for decades up until now. There are also lots of personal themes in the song; he might feel guilty for giving in to his vices (i.e. money, sex, drugs, etc.); religion and judgment are also heavy themes here. In the end, he is definitely making a statement!

  • Also, a note: Alright and All right are accepted forms, though I’ve seen All right used more in older literature.

There’s a lot of slang in this song! Did you get it all? Let me know what you think.

Listen to the song here:

Here’s the full music video if you’re interested:

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