Kendrick Lamar’s “Money Trees” Lyrics Meaning

In “Money Trees“, Lamar basically proposes that getting rich brings comfort and saves you from the everyday difficulties people face. At the same time however, the pursuit of a lot of money is accompanied by evil. Owing to this, a person may have to choose to go to extreme lengths in order to make wealth.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Kendrick Lamar's Money Trees at

Kendrick Lamar interestingly presents contradictory situations of working hard to make money by rapping and building a music career for instance, as against getting money the easy way by indulging in illegal activities such as robbery, drugs or prostitution.

Throughout, Lamar portrays how desperate people, especially those who grew up in poverty-stricken neighborhoods strive to get rich quickly. And in the course of that, these people often lose their minds, morals and stray from their true passion.

The song also identifies the prevalence of gang culture, violence, drugs and theft rampant in poor neighborhoods. It goes on to talk about how people in these communities struggle to make enough money to leave those places so they can live comfortably.

A More Detailed Explanation of the Meaning of “Money Trees”

The term “money trees”, as relayed in the chorus, is presented as a literal one. In other words, Kendrick puts forth that “money trees is the perfect place for shade”, thus implying that such a plant exists, which in actuality it doesn’t.

Perhaps what he is alluding to is the colloquialism of money growing on trees, which serves as a metaphor for their being an endless abundance of it available. And what this song is about, according to Lamar’s own explanation, is “the mind state of thinking everything is about a dollar”, harping back to a time when he and his compatriots “didn’t care about anything else truthfully”.

With that said, also keep in mind that K-Dot did in fact grow up in the ghetto, in Compton to be exact, a city which is well known for its ridiculously-high level of crime. Furthermore, it is common in the ‘hood for young males to reach a point in life where, as noted earlier, they become obsessed with generating a large amount of income. 

The problem though, with this being the ghetto and all, is that economic opportunities are limited to begin with, and males in general are socialized to believe that criminal activities are more profitable than formal jobs. These types of young men would be more interested in making a quick, big buck than holding down a meager 9 to 5, i.e. the types of jobs that teenagers are normally relegated to.

The Crimes

So as depicted at the beginning of the first verse, the vocalist and his boys went around robbing houses, in an environment where “home invasion was persuasive”. Their goal was to ‘live life like the rappers do’, which is the stated reason they don’t get jobs instead, because a job wouldn’t pay even remotely enough to enjoy that lifestyle.

The Disease

Afterwards, Kendrick completely changes the topic though against the same backdrop, of how wild he and his boys were back in the day. These ruminations harp back to an era when wearing condoms wasn’t en vogue. As such, Lamar proceeded to have unprotected sex with one “Sherane” and believing himself to be the man afterwards. However, the vocalist soon came to realize that in the process he caught an STD, most likely, by the way he describes the burning sensation, gono–hea.

I had no Choice

Then the rapper changes the topic again, insinuating that back then rapping served as a way for him and his brethren to freely express themselves to one another. However, all musical activities were put on hold when a score presented itself. 

Apparently what Lamar is implying in relaying this is that if he were born into an easier life, he then would have been afforded more of an opportunity to engage in leisure activities, such as rapping. But since he wasn’t, he and the homeys were doing what they felt they needed to do, i.e. robberies and stick-ups, in order to get by.

Chorus of “Money Trees”

The chorus then commences with a very-intriguing line, where the vocalist puts forth that “it go Halle Berry or hallelujah”. This is a statement that Kendrick went on to explain in his words. And what it is meant to point to is reaching a crossroad whereby a person is compelled to decide, as he puts it, ‘to go right or left’.

So in that equation Halle Berry, once again going back to Lamar’s own words, is meant to represent “the lust for the money” and doing what you gotta do, now, to get it. That’s the mentality he and his people display in this song.

By contrast, the “hallelujah”, which is a biblical expression, would instead represent taking the righteous, and may we also say patient path in life. And apparently the reason he used “Halle Berry” in particular to contrast “hallelujah” is because the two terms are alliterate.

“It go Halle Berry or hallelujah
Pick your poison, tell me what you doin’
Everybody gon’ respect the shooter
But the one in front of the gun lives forever
The one in front of the gun, forever
And I been hustlin’ all-day
This-a-way, that-a-way
Through canals and alleyways, just to say
Money trees is the perfect place for shade
And that’s just how I feel”

The rapper then seemingly proceeds to note that whereas shooters are the ones who are respected after committing such an act, it is the victim rather that is immortalized. But with that being noted, how exactly that observation is meant to tie into the rest of the chorus is not abundantly clear.

Then he closes out the passage by describing himself as an all-day, everyway hustler which, within the context of this track, we will take as alluding to having been a diligent criminal. 

But alas, this is Kendrick Lamar we’re talking about, who can be counted as more of an intellectual than gangsta rapper. So it’s the post-chorus that follows which can be taken as how he critically feels about the subject matter at hand, rather than being based on ‘hood ideology. And the vocalist is wise enough to understand that money in and of itself is a questionable substance if you will, especially when it is present in abundance.

For instance, the love of money may cause your girlfriend to be unfaithful or make you change for the worse, such as turning on the selfsame homeys who always had your back. Or being what it is, its value can change in a heartbeat, or “a dollar might turn to a million, and we all rich”, as K-Dot puts it. 

“A dollar might turn to a million, and we all rich”

This particular line may even be prophetic considering that as of the writing of this post, Kendrick’s home state of California appears to be on the verge of paying all Black residents reparations which, if approved, would see some recipients instantly become millionaires.

“A dollar might just f–k your main bit-h
That’s just how I feel, nah
A dollar might say f–k them nig-as that you came with
That’s just how I feel, nah, nah
A dollar might just make that lane switch
That’s just how I feel, nah
A dollar might turn to a million and we all rich”

A Young Lamar

Then at the beginning of the second verse, we once again find Lamar as a teenager who is influenced by the big-name rappers of the day.

In that regard, he specifically calls out legendary 20th century West Coast emcee E-40, along the lines of acknowledging how such figures instilled in ghetto youth like himself a burning desire to get rich. However, the vocalist is brought back to reality by what’s actually going on in his life as opposed to lofty dreams.

For example, nig-as are getting gunned down on the reg, including his own Uncle Tony, who caught two in the dome. In fact as implied, it is this selfsame Tony who predicted that one day K-Dot would be a famous rapper. 

But that said, the passing of this loved one doesn’t have the effect of calming Kendrick down. Rather it inspires him to go on a spending spree to ease the pain and more firmly embrace the gangbanging lifestyle.

Anna Wise steps in

Shortly thereafter comes the bridge, as rendered by backup vocalist Anna Wise. What it is meant to speak to, most simply put, is the ideology behind gangbanging. And as delineated, that idea revolves around practices such as being early on the grind, not falling in love with questionable women, keeping the code of the streets and promptly evading law enforcement.

Jay Rock takes over

Next up is Jay Rock, who’s responsible for the third verse. He’s from Watts, a neighborhood adjacent to Compton, with he and Kendrick also having been label mates at the time. 

Jay goes on to present himself as sort of a quintessential street thug, i.e. a gun-toting drug dealer who’s affiliated with killers and doing what he must to generate bread, though in his case more specifically in the name of proving for ‘his daughter and them’. 

As Rock infers, the paper chase where he comes from involves “b*tches selling p*-sy”, i.e. prostitution, and “nig-as selling drugs”. And overall, he rightfully presents the ‘hood as being rife with crime. And as with his co-star, Jay “dreams of… getting shade under a money tree”, i.e. making enough dough that he can finally get away from it all and chill.

The End of “Money Trees”

The song ultimately ends with a skit featuring K-Dot’s parents. It revolves around his mother, Paula Duckworth, demanding Kendrick return her car while his father, Kenneth Duckworth, is intoxicated and trying to seduce her. 

Apparently this has nothing in particular to do with the content of this song but rather serves as a plot device in relation to the overall theme of Good Kid, m.A.A.d City, i.e. the album at large.

All in All

So as can be seen, “Money Trees” leads the listener into a couple of different directions. But all lyrics considered, the thesis sentiment appears to be that when you combine the desire to get rich, as infused by the mainstream media, with the hard realities of living in the ghetto, what you get is the likes of young men who engage in a dangerous criminal lifestyle in order to survive. Kendrick recalls the days when the goal of making illicit dough was first and foremost amongst him and his peers.

All in all, this is a deep and reflective track that looks at Lamar’s past life and lowly beginnings. It also sheds light on his rise to the top of the music industry.

Credits for “Money Trees”

Kendrick Lamar wrote “Money Trees” alongside Jay Rock and a bunch of others, including the following:

  • A. Scally
  • V. Legrand
  •  DJ Dahi (who also produced it)

When was “Money Trees” released?

Lamar’s maiden major label studio project is titled “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City”. “Money Trees”, which came out on 22nd of October, 2012, is one of the tracks on this album.

“Silver Soul” is sampled into “Money Tree”

“Money Trees” samples Beach House’s 2010 song titled “Silver Soul”. It is for this reason songwriters Scally and Legrand receive writing credits on “Money Trees”. The pair wrote “Silver Soul”.

Did Lamar release “Money Trees” as a single?

No. Despite not being a single, it charted on multiple Billboard charts. It went on to receive massive praise in the hip hop world. Actually we consider it one of Lamar’s finest works.

Money Trees by Kendrick Lamar

9 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Nice explanation

  2. Anonymous says:

    its soo sad tik tok kinda ruined this song.its soo goood 🙂

  3. Anonymous says:

    I agree that Kendrick highlights the morale contradiction he faces in taking part in illegal activities but I feel you only scratched the surface. The call back ‘It goes Halle Berry or Hallejuah’ is a reference to how he’s torn between money and hot girls and the christian morales he had drilled into him by his grandmother. This is a theme throughout the album.

    The song starts out with Kendrick explaining he’s hanging with his boys and someone casually suggests they rob houses with the suffix ‘are you with it ya bish’ which is the first instance of many examples of young guys and peer pressure. Which was probably a major contributing factor to getting up to no good back then, The same social group exists all around the world so it’s relatable. Another example of this is what seems innocuous statement of ‘back when condom rappers wasn’t cool’ and ”a fucked sherane and went to tell my bros’ shows the level of immaturity and the pack mentality of a teenage boy.

    There is another major theme Kendrick repeatedly refers to a ‘life like rappers’ so he is referring to the most succesful people to make it out of his community of Compton and that was rappers who flaunted their success and wealth through jewellery cars and material items. So it’s no suprise that these young guys want to attain this illusion of wealth or at least get some money to appear to succeed and they are prepared to do it by any means.

    The second verse kendrick casually hints that him and his friend have hi-jacked a Volvo V-40 and are cruising around feeling empowered and have a temporary sense of wealth and affluence, one of the friends brings the crew to a moment of clarity when kendrick is informed that his Uncle has been shot twice in the head and he casually tells the listener that he believed in Kendrick and that he would be performing on stages on day. He then goes on to say the chicken shop where he was killed will never be the same (louis) and that a Louis belt will never ease that pain showing that despite Kendriks impulsive drive for money and status by illegal means he at this young age still understands that its immiterial. He goes on to say though that when he’s made it he’ll pull up at the churches chicken suggesting that this will be a memorial to him.

    It then cuts to the boys listening to freestyle beats and rapping and kendrick says its the only way to free their mind. So it’s clear that there is this creative and positive outlet from their troubled life, but they are quickly distracted by an opportunity to rob someone that they think is an ‘easy mark’ The recurring call back of ‘A dollar might just make it to a million’ shows the mentality of kendricks situation and drive to make it out the hood, the hope that one score could change him and his familys life and shows the desperation of those who are surrounded by people who have everything and have nothing.

    the female vocals which say:

    ‘be the last one out the get this dough… now way
    love one of you bucket headed hoes… no way
    Hit the streets and we break the code… no way
    Hit the breaks when they on patrol… now way

    Just goes to show the loyalty to the code of

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