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Meaning of the song ‘Poetic Justice’ by ‘Kendrick Lamar’

Released: 2012

“Poetic Justice” by Kendrick Lamar is a sultry, vivid piece of the Compton rapper’s storytelling puzzle. It’s a tale of love, lust, and tension that’s loaded with symbolic language, painting a clear picture of Kendrick’s internal struggles.

The women he desires on throughout this piece encompasses both physical and emotional connection – but not without a dose of conflict and complexity.

The song starts with Kendrick brilliantly setting the scene: a dark room lit by the scent of perfume. His wordplay is rich, subtly implying that the woman he’s with is ‘high maintenance’, but he’s drawn by her uniqueness—she isn’t like everyone else who just ‘live life on an everyday basis’.

The phrase “poetic justice” is Kendrick’s aphorism for the dichotomy of good and bad in life. If a ‘flower bloomed in a dark room’, it’s both miraculous and suspect—similar to how he feels about his relationship with this woman.

The lyrical masterclass continues as he questions the authenticity of his lover’s friends, and her frequent partying lifestyle.

The choruses and hooks throughout this joint hit hard. Kendrick sings about understanding this woman’s desires and wants; she craves ‘poetic justice’, which he’s willing to provide ‘in a song’. Yet, there’s an undertone of frustration, as Kendrick is running low on patience.

This ties back into the main theme of the song—struggling to reconcile conflict, desire, and expectations within a relationship.

As the story unfolds in the second verse, Kendrick shows a willingness to guide her, even offering to take her and her mother to Africa, ‘the motherland’. But she’s already taken by the city life, in the arms of another man.

Again, ‘poetic justice’ materializes as a situation where a budding relationship is met with challenges—she’s new to life, yet comfortably adjusted, while he’s struggling with their contrasting lifestyles.

Then we hit the last verse which hammers home the main theme of love and its complexities. Kendrick uses metaphorical language such as ‘living life in the margin’ being proof of his ‘poetic justice’.

Here he’s telling of the need for trust, specifically trusting the prospect of a ‘flower blooming in a dark room’, the love growing amidst the adversities.

He also notes that ‘love is not just a verb; it’s you looking in the mirror’—a profound exploration that love is about self-love as well as connecting with another person.

As he wrestles with love, desire, and tension, the final lines again emphasize the ‘poetic justice’ of their relationship—he still desires her, despite their issues, and hopes she understands this through his song. The closing dialogue scene enforces Kendrick’s troubled world—a brewing conflict underscoring the often harsh realities faced by those from areas like Compton.

All this to say, “Poetic Justice” is a profound assertion of Kendrick Lamar’s ability to spin the intricate threads of a narrative into a lyrical loom. Symbolism, emotion, and street sensibilities converge, creating a vivid portrayal of love, longing, and conflict that defines this soon-to-be classic cut.

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