Meaning of “DNA.” by Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar’s “DNA.” is a deep reflection on his identity, both personally and as a part of the larger African-American community. Throughout the song, Lamar uses intense imagery and strong language to discuss various elements that he sees as being integral parts of his identity, which he describes as being in his “DNA”.

In the first half, Lamar asserts that his natural state is one of power and dignity, characterized by royalty and realness, which is a bold rejection of negative societal expectations and stereotypes.

He portrays an amalgamation of different traits – power, pain, ambition, and more – to depict a complex, multifaceted identity that can’t be pinned down to simplistic views. He also touches upon deeper themes of racial identity, heritage, and societal expectations in a raw, unfiltered manner, showcasing a deep-seated frustration and anger towards systemic issues and stereotypes.

“I got, I got, I got, I got—
Loyalty, got royalty inside my DNA
Cocaine quarter piece, got war and peace inside my DNA
I got power, poison, pain, and joy inside my DNA
I got hustle, though, ambition flow inside my DNA”

In the second half of the song, the narrative moves to a more personal level, where Lamar narrates his rise to success despite facing hardships and difficulties during his early life, portraying a narrative of resilience, triumph, and success.

Towards the end, the lyrics touch upon various challenges that come with fame, including dealing with paparazzi and maintaining authenticity. Throughout, there’s a recurring theme of survival and defiance, with Lamar refusing to conform to others’ expectations, aiming to remain true to himself, and fighting against the pressures and negative influences in society.

“DNA.” closes with a somewhat chaotic and violent imagery, potentially representing a world in turmoil but ends with a call for peace, highlighting the dichotomy and complex relationship between violence and peace in society.

All in all, this is an exploration of Lamar’s personal history, the history of black people in America, and the larger human condition, brimming with anger, pride, and a fierce determination to survive and thrive despite everything.

When was “DNA.” released?

“DNA.” was released on 14th April, 2017. It is the second track off Lamar’s fourth album, “Damn”.


Lamar co-wrote this track with Mike WiLL Made-It. The latter also produced it.

Did “DNA.” chart?

Yes, it did. It was a massive hit.

CountryPosition #
United Kingdom#18
United States#4
New Zealand#5

It also received Platinum certificates from both United Kingdom and United States.

CountryUnits sold to date
United KingdomOver half a million
United StatesOver 3 million

Featured in Media

  • 2018 American sports drama movie, “Creed II”, featured “DNA.” in their first trailer.
  • 2018 American coming-of-age movie, “The Hate U Give”, featured this track in its soundtrack.
  • Third episode of 2020 Canadian TV series, “Utopia Falls” streamed on Hulu.
  • Closing of Dave Chappelle’s 2019 stand-up comedy show, “Sticks & Stones”.
  • Trailer of 2019 fighting game, “Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath” expansion.

What does Kendrick Lamar’s “DNA.” mean?

It is widely believed that “DNA” is an acronym for “Dead Ni**er Association”.

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