N95, Kendrick Lamar’s new song: inside the meaning of the lyrics

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Kendrick Lamar’s new album was released in the first half of May 2022 and, as one of the most followed hip hop artists in the world, obviously it sparked the tussle. 18 tracks, all quite short and snappy, a series of strong topics expressed by the American rapper and, released on May 14th, an official video of a song that is making a lot of talk: N95, which shows a critical vision of the times we live in.

The official video of the song is below. Below we will analyze the lyrics and their meaning.

Watch this video on YouTube.

The meaning of the lyrics

N95 is a reference to a type of face mask that was made mandatory by the US government for a certain period, in order to fight the expansion of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the lyrics Kendrick Lamar lists a series of distortions that he observes in society, referring in a harsh way to a “new world”. There is no line in the song where the N95 of the title is quoted, but by combining the spirit of the song and the title, Kendrick’s message seems to be a rant against how a new normality has been imposed from above.

There are some verses in which Lamar’s criticism becomes more explicit. “You’re back outside, but they still lied” is a strong line, which could allude to the period in which, during the peak of the pandemic, governments had imposed restriction of free movement. A highly discussed issue especially within American society, founded so strongly on the concept of freedom and on the high regard that it has as an inviolable part of social life, even in case of emergencies.

Another reference to the new world that has emerged in recent years is in the second part of the song:

The world in a panic, the women is stranded, the men on a run
The prophets abandoned, the law take advantage, the market is crashin ‘, the industry wants
Nig ** s send b *** hes to sleep in a box while they makin ‘a mockery followin’ us
This ain’t Monopoly, watchin ’for love, this ain’t monogamy, y’all gettin’ f *** ed

The song therefore offers an acid description of things that are getting worse and worse, beyond the control of ordinary people, who have to suffer what is happening without being able to do anything. In front of all this Kendrick has no solution, but he spits out all his anger by accusing the world and by declaring as unacceptable the new course of events.

The lyrics is quite complex and still leave room for free interpretation. You can find them below.

The full lyrics

Hello new world, all the boys and girls
I got some true stories to tell
You’re back outside, but they still lied
Woah-oh-oh-oh (Yeah)

Take off the foo-foo, take off the clout chase, take off the Wi-Fi
Take off the money phone, take off the car loan, take off the flex and the white lies
Take off the weird-ass jewelry, I’ma take ten steps, then I’m taking off top five
Take off them fabricated streams and them microwave memes, it’s a real world outside
Take off your idols, take off the runway, I take off to Cairo (Take that shit off)
Take off to Saint-Tropez, five-day stay, take a quarter mill’, hell, if I know (Take that shit off)
Take off the false flag, take off perception, take off the cop with the eye patch (Take that shit off)
Take off the unloyal, take off the unsure, take off decisions I lack (Take it off)
Take off the fake deep, take off the fake woke, take off the “I’m broke,” I care (Take it off)
Take off the gossip, take off the new logic that if I’m rich, I’m rare (Take it off)
Take off the Chanel, take off the Dolce, take off the Birkin bag
(Take it off)
Take all that designer bull***t off, and what do you have?

B***h, huh, huh, ugh
You ugly as f**k (You outta pocket)
Huh, two ATMs (Hah, hah, hah, hah)
You steppin’ or what? (You outta pocket, huh)
Who you think they talk about?
Talk about us (You outta pocket—shoot, shoot, shoot)
Who you think they copy off? (Brrt, brrt, brrt, brrt)
Copy off us (Get back in pocket)

The world in a panic, the women is stranded, the men on a run
The prophets abandoned, the law take advantage, the market is crashin’, the industry wants
Nig**s send b***hes to sleep in a box while they makin’ a mockery followin’ us
This ain’t Monopoly, watchin’ for love, this ain’t monogamy, y’all gettin’ f***ed
Jumpin’ on what the hell is that? I gotta relax when I feel (Huh, facts)
All my descendants, they come in my sleep and say I am too real (Huh, facts)
I’m done with the sensitive, takin’ it personal, done with the black and the white, the wrong and the right
You hopin’ for change and clericals, I know the feelings that came with burial’s cries

B***h, huh, huh, ugh
You ugly as f**k (You outta pocket)
Huh, two ATMs (Hah, hah, hah, hah)
You steppin’ or what? (You outta pocket, huh)
Who you think they talk about?
Talk about us (You outta pocket—shoot, shoot, shoot)
Who you think they copy off? (Brrt, brrt, brrt, brrt)
Copy off us (Get back in pocket)

Servin’ up a look, dancin’ in a drought
Hello to the big stepper, never losin’ count
Ventin’ in the safe house
Ventin’ in the safe house

Can I vent all my truth? I got nothin’ to lose
I got problems and pools, I can swim on my faith
Cameras movin’ whenever I’m movin’, the family suin’ whatever I make
Murder is stackin’, the president actin’, the government taxin’ my funds in the bank
Homies attracting the feds when I’m bracking, look at my reaction, my pupils on skates (Hold up, hold up)
Let’s think about this for a second (Let’s go)
Tell me what you would do for aesthetic (Let’s go)
Would you sell your soul on credit? (Let’s go)
Would you sell your bro for leverage? (Let’s go)
Where the hypocrites at?
What community feel they the only ones relevant? (Let’s go)
Where the hypocrites at?
What community feel they the only ones relevant? (Let’s go)

You outta pocket, yeah, you outta pocket (This s**t hard)
You entertain the mediocre, need to stop it (This s**t hard)
You entertainin’ old friends when they toxic (This s**t hard)
What your life like? Bulls**t and gossip (This s**t hard)
What the f**k is cancel culture, dawg?
Say what I want about you ni**as, I’m like Oprah, dawg
I treat you crackers like I’m Jigga, watch, I own it all
Oh, you worried ’bout a critic? That ain’t protocol