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Meaning of the song ‘N95’ by ‘Kendrick Lamar’

Released: 2022

In “N95”, Kendrick Lamar delivers a scathing critique of both the hip-hop industry and the broader societal trends reflecting on materialism, falsified online perception, the plight of black communities, and the concept of cancel culture. The song serves as a call-out for authenticity while also touching upon the struggles of being under the constant scrutiny of the limelight.

The first verse and hook kick off with a call to take off all the superficial and inauthentic elements, where Kendrick encourages his listeners to strip away anything that isn’t genuine, from fake online clout to materialistic possessions. Terms like “foo-foo”, “clout chase”, “white lies”, and “microwave memes” are all admonishments of the superficial culture propagated by influencers and some artists in the industry. Kendrick’s message here is to focus on what’s real and not get wrapped up in the game of appearances.

The lines “The world in a panic, the women is stranded, the men on a run” paint a picture of a world in chaos, where marginalized communities are left to fend for themselves. Lamar isn’t shy about laying out the grim reality that faces many people, alluding to issues like police violence, economic disparity, and societal indifference.

In the second verse, Kendrick switches the tone from societal commentary to a more personal narrative. The line “I’m done with the sensitive, takin’ it personal” shows him expressing an exhaustion with the constant scrutiny and criticism he faces. The lyrics “Camera’s movin’ whenever I’m movin’ / The family suin’ whatever I make” convey the burdens of fame and wealth, and how they can breed hostility even within one’s own circles.

The song’s final stanza hits hard on the concept of “cancel culture,” a phenomenon where public figures are instantly discredited or boycotted due to perceived misconduct or controversial viewpoints. Kendrick’s dismissal of the concept—“What the fuck is cancel culture, dawg?”—suggests he’s unafraid to voice his thoughts and perspectives.

Throughout “N95”, Kendrick employs his signature wit and biting criticism to convey a message about authenticity, societal problems, the false allure of fame, and the need for real change. His lyrics brim with a rejection of superficiality and a call to confront what’s beneath the surface.

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