Kendrick Lamar (Ft. Ash Riser) – “Determined” Lyrics Meaning

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Written By Joanna Landrum

Joanna holds a BSc in English Literature and uses her expertise in literary analysis to uncover the deeper meaning of her favorite songs.

The song delves into themes of resilience, self-belief, and a quest for success, portraying Kendrick’s journey from a life of challenges to achieving his aspirations. The lyrics suggest a battle against societal expectations and self-doubt, emphasizing the importance of staying true to oneself and aiming high. The narrative is rich, filled with references that depict the struggle between Kendrick’s current state and his ambitions, symbolizing a universal fight against limitations and the pursuit of one’s goals.

Ready to embark on a lyrical journey of ambition and resilience? Read on as we unpack the depth and substance of Kendrick Lamar’s “Determined,” revealing the powerful messages and stories lurking within this compelling composition!


“Determined” Lyrics Meaning

“Determined” by Kendrick Lamar featuring Ash Riser is a musical journey exploring the significance of ambition and the pursuit of success amidst hardships. The opening lines allude to the power of the mind and the boundless possibilities that belief can unlock, establishing the tone of an individual’s journey toward their dreams.

Kendrick’s lyrics, “Go getter, with no cheddar / Just a white tee and a swap meet sweater,” reflect his background, his challenges, and his drive. These lines portray the raw, unfiltered ambition of an individual with minimal resources but maximal determination. The juxtaposition of “no cheddar” with “go getter” contrasts his circumstances and aspirations.

The recurrent questions, “What I gotta do in order to see success? Having the world’s best to call me the best?” are potent reflections of Kendrick’s internal battle, depicting his yearning for acknowledgment and accomplishment. It’s a universal conflict, showcasing the struggle for success and recognition in a world filled with competition and comparisons.

The reference to “J Cole” and the mention of “a dollar and a dream” bring to light the commonality of their experiences, depicting the shared journey of artists seeking to make their mark in the world, starting with limited means but harboring boundless dreams. It’s a symbolic representation of the countless stories of individuals aspiring to transcend their circumstances.

Kendrick uses vivid imagery, “Pull up at the Grammy awards / As the best dressed / With an address linked to / A beautiful actress,” to represent his vision of success, highlighting his aspirations for acclaim and affluence and associating them with established symbols of achievement.

The Story Behind “Determined”

Kendrick wrote “Determined” at a time when he was navigating his way through the music industry, grappling with his ambitions, and confronting the challenges of his background. The song reflects his state of mind, a mix of uncertainty and an unwavering resolve to succeed.

Kendrick’s mention of wanting to be like “Gates” and “Trump” indicates his desire to break free from the confines of his environment and attain a level of success associated with these high-profile figures, depicting his aspiration to achieve influence and affluence beyond music. It’s a reflection of his broader vision and his intention to create a lasting impact.

The incorporation of the names of industry moguls like “Jay,” “Russell,” “Barry Gordy,” “Quincy Jones,” “Bob Johnson,” “Sean Combs,” and “LA Reid” is a nod to the individuals who have paved the way for black entrepreneurs in the entertainment industry. It emphasizes the influence of such figures on Kendrick’s aspirations and depicts his motivation to join the ranks of those who have succeeded against the odds.

This background knowledge about Kendrick’s journey and motivations enriches our understanding of “Determined,” allowing us to appreciate the depth of his ambition and the sincerity of his lyrical expressions. The song becomes a beacon of hope and inspiration, resonating with anyone striving to rise above their circumstances and achieve their dreams.

In conclusion, “Determined” is more than just a musical piece; it’s a narrative of ambition, resilience, and the relentless pursuit of dreams. It’s Kendrick Lamar’s heartfelt expression of his journey, struggles, aspirations, and unwavering determination to succeed, conveying a universally relatable message of hope and perseverance.