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Meaning of the song ‘Toxic’ by ‘Kehlani’

Released: 2020

“Toxic” by Kehlani is a deeply introspective track that touches on the complexities of a harmful relationship. It’s a narrative of love, obsession, and the destructive cycle of toxicity that sometimes accompanies these intertwined emotions.

Kicking off the first verse, Kehlani sings about how she and her lover take turns being the mature one (“we take turns bein’ grown”). There’s a pattern of accountability that emerges only when she’s alone, a likely nod to the introspection that comes with solitude. The line “Don Julio made me a fool for you” refers to the tequila brand, indicating that under the influence, she might act foolishly, reaching out to her lover even when she knows it’s not beneficial.

Charging into the chorus, Kehlani asserts that “all of this love is toxic”. “Knock shit” refers to the act of knocking someone off their path or balance – so all their physical demonstrations of affection are destabilizing, further reinforcing the toxic nature of their relationship. Put simply, she’s saying their love, while intense and passionate, is ultimately harmful like a “damn drug”.

In the second verse, she cunningly borrows terminology from DJ culture to describe their intimate encounters, painting a vivid picture of their physical connection. However, she’s painfully aware of the one-sided sacrifices she’s been making, putting her desires and autonomy on hold for her lover.

The term “problematic” comes in to further drive home the toxic nature of their relationship. Kehlani appears hooked on this partner despite recognizing the drama and instability they bring. And just as she did earlier, she acknowledges that the influence of Don Julio tequila makes her reach out, even if that perpetuates their harmful dynamic.

Ultimately, “Toxic” serves as an incredibly relatable portrait of an unhealthy relationship, one marked by love and passion but marred by instability and harm. The song captures the duality of toxic relationships: a magnetic attraction mixed with undeniable detriment.

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