Released: 2017

Features: Rihanna

Right off the bat, “LOYALTY. FEAT. RIHANNA.” by Kendrick Lamar is a captivating track, delving deep into the conflicted psyche of a man grappling with success and the confusion that comes with it. Loyalty, in all its forms, takes center stage in this lyrical piece, providing a raw look at the struggle between personal and professional allegiances and the testing grounds of relationships in the unforgiving world of the music industry.

The track kicks off with Kendrick expressing his vulnerability and desire for escapism. “I’m geeked and I’m fired up” suggests being high, not just on substances, but on the adrenaline rush from his success. The reference to how “good” something looks and is, “it’s to die for”, underscores the allure of fame, the music industry, or the women in it, despite its associated risks.

In the chorus, we get the essence of the track – Loyalty. The repeated mantra, “Loyalty, loyalty, loyalty”, strikes a chord, emphasizing its importance in Kendrick’s life. The lyric, “Kung Fu Kenny, now,” refers to one of Kendrick’s many alter egos, Kung Fu Kenny, hinting at the need to assume such a persona in a world where authenticity might not always serve you best.

Kendrick Lamar LOYALTY. FEAT. RIHANNA.

Later, Kendrick shifts his focus to his career, detailing the effort he’s put into his craft and his ambitions. Lyrics like “My resume is real enough for two millenniums” and “And ain’t no limit when I might shine, might grind” suggest his credibility and commitment to his work, highlighting the tireless grind that comes with maintaining relevance in the game.

Then enters Rihanna, “bad gyal RiRi,” reinforcing the song’s strong theme. Her verse packs a punch, demonstrating her place in the industry —well established (“I’m established”), unapologetically honest about her nature (“I’m a savage, I’m an asshole, I’m a king”), and defiantly independent. This ties back to the theme of loyalty – to oneself, to your grind, and to staying authentically you even as the industry seeks to shape and mold you.

As the track progresses, Kendrick examines loyalty’s varying appearances, questioning its validity when it’s grounded in materialistic things like money, fame, weed, or drink. The line “Is it unconditional when the ‘Rari don’t start?” is especially poignant, questioning if loyalty would remain when the material trappings of success are stripped away. The biggest question, “Tell me when your loyalty is coming from the heart,” resonates, emphasizing the importance of genuine, heartfelt allegiance over superficial loyalty.

In essence, “LOYALTY. FEAT. RIHANNA.” explores the complexities and contradictions of maintaining loyalty in an industry known for its fickleness. It’s a deep dive into the concept of allegiance, a contemplative exploration riding on a catchy hip-hop beat. It’s Kendrick and RiRi interrogating the listener, asking where their loyalties lie, in a world where external influences can often blur the lines.