“Mother I Sober” by Kendrick Lamar (ft. Beth Gibbons)

Anyone who listens to rap music knows of certain perils that exist in the ‘hood, such as rampant crime and being subject to an unfair criminal justice system. But there are other things that happen quite commonly that are not as freely spoken of, due to their deeply-personal and traumatizing nature. And so is the subject matter, premise-wise, of “Mother I Sober”.

Verse 1

The first verse speaks to domestic violence and Kendrick witnessing his mother being physically abused when he was just five years old. Of course at that age, you can’t realistically expect him to do anything about it. But still, the guilt of not intervening has worried him into his adulthood.

Verse 2

In the second verse, it is implied that the vocalist had a cousin who at least the family considered to be some type of a pervert. They were convinced that said cousin sexually abused young Kendrick. But he hadn’t, and Lamar spoke the truth in that regard. But still, going through that whole ordeal apparently traumatized him in some way.

Verse 3

And finally, the last verse has the vocalist admitting to being a sex addict himself – an addiction which of course negatively affected the relationship with the woman he’s actually committed to. But in a roundabout way Kendrick seems to attribute that reality, i.e. loose sexuality amongst African-Americans so to speak, to the harrowing sexual abuse their forefathers endured during the days of slavery. Indeed going back to the topic of subjects that are too sensitive to talk about in song, some of the atrocities of American slavery definitely fall into the category.

Long and Short of “Mother I Sober”

What all of this is boiling down to is how K-Dot himself has handled the various traumas he either witnessed or endured. Concerning the title of the song, he did not resort to drugs as guys under similar circumstances tend to do, as a means of escaping from reality. Instead he remained “sober” throughout which, in a way, has made life even more painful. But now, Kendrick has reached a point where he’s ‘setting himself free’ from all of this heartache.

And of course domestic violence, sexual abuse, having a loved one die prematurely, etc. aren’t realities that only affect Black people. So whereas Lamar may be speaking directly to the African-American experience, by the time all is said and done, he appears to be wishing the same type of ‘freedom’ to all of us who have suffered through such. And this includes even the “abusers”, that they would no longer conduct themselves destructively.

Kendrick Lamar, "Mother I Sober" Lyrics

Beth Gibbons

The featured artist on this track is Beth Gibbons, the lead singer of a band from the UK known as Portishead. Portishead hasn’t been terribly active for the last decade or so, which would logically be why we don’t hear much of them these days, because they have been very successful while actually doing their thing. 

“Mother I Sober” marks the first time Beth and Kendrick have teamed up.

Credits for “Mother I Sober”

Sounwave, Bēkon and J.LBS served as the producers of this song. Sounwave and J.LBS, both of whom are (like Kendrick) from Los Angeles, are also amongst the track’s co-writers, with the others being K.Dot, Beth Gibbons, Thundercat and Sam Dew.

When did Kendrick release “Mother I Sober”?

“Mother I Sober” was put out via the collective efforts of record labels Aftermath, Interscope, Top Dawg and BMG.

The song, which appears on the album, “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers”, was made public on 13 May 2022.

Mother I Sober

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