Kendrick Lamar’s song “Swimming Pools (Drank),” on the album good kid, m.A.A.d city, reminisces Kendrick’s early life witnessing adults “swim” in liquor. Swimming pools is a metaphor for overindulgent imbibing and the physical and mental struggle you face after consuming alcohol. Experiencing these influences, Kendrick has to face himself in the fight towards buoyancy and sobriety.
The song starts out discussing his grandfather’s addiction to the liquid:
Now I done grew up ’round some people livin’ their life in bottles
Granddaddy had the golden flask
Backstroke every day in Chicago
Kendrick speaks of his own household, where much of his family were alcoholics. The term “backstroke” is a play on words speaking of his father swimming in a pool full of liquor everyday with his “golden flask.” Golden is another indicator of the significance at which his grandfather drank. It is as if his flask is a trophy to him, and cannot live without it.
Pour up, head shot
sit down, stand up
pass out, wake up
This chorus is unique in the way it is structured. Quick, emphasized words create a feeling of intoxication, in which kendrick is purposely creating for the listener. The word “shot” is a double entendre, in which the shot is a form of consuming alcohol, but also as a shot to the head in terms of mental disability. Furthermore, contradicting his words creates a feeling of repetition, in which alcohol consumtion is just a circle that goes back and forth until one is lost in the mind and feeling.
I’m your conscience, if you do not hear me
Then you will be history, Kendrick
I know that you’re nauseous right now
And I’m hopin’ to lead you to victory Kendrick
While the first verse discusses Kendrick’s childhood and background on alcoholism, the second verse switches viewpoints. Kendrick is now in his own head trying to swim up from the alcohol he has indulged himself with.
He then writes:
I think that I’m feelin’ the vibe, I see the love in her eyes
I see the feelin’, the freedom is granted
As soon as the damage of vodka arrive
After giving insight of the struggle within his own mind, he then immediately switches it to the viewpoint of the alcohol within him. While Kendrick tries to fight the alcoholism, the alcohol starts to take over and make him feel euphoric. He can’t escape the liquor once he has dived into it. It is inevitable that he (his mind) will drown in it.
With these messages in mind, Kendrick has made this song to tell the evils of liquor. People will dive right in before testing the waters and can’t find their way out.