The song “Swimming Pools (Drank)” by Kendrick Lamar in his album good kid, m.A.A.d city is arguably one of the most poetic songs of our generation of rap. Coming from an artist who is often looked at as the king of lyrics in the rap game, Kendrick Lamar fills all of his songs with a wide variety of poetic and multidimensional language.
Without even diving into the lyrics of the song the title itself has a deeper meaning. The title “Swimming Pools” is a metaphor for alcoholism and the consequences that come with consuming a lot of alcohol. Throughout the song, Kendrick Lamar vividly addresses a lot of the physical and mental pressure that drives people to drink.
First, the song starts with:
Now I done grew up ’round some people livin’ their life in bottles/
Granddaddy had the golden flask/
Backstroke every day in Chicago/
This first line can help us understand the overall theme of the poem. The speaker is reminiscing about his early years as a kid witnessing a house that was filled with adults and alcohol. Quickly after we learn this, Kendrick gives us a metaphor using the phrase “backstroke”. This is playing on the word swimming pool. It is him drowning in a pool of liquor in Chicago.
Throughout the song Kedrick is able to make the listener feel like they are living in the world of the story, the best instance of that is in this line:
Lookin’ to make a vow soon/ That I’ma get f*cked up, fillin’ up my cup/ I see the crowd mood changin’ by the minute
Kendrick uses imagery to perfection in this line. In this Kendrick has made the vow or decided to get drunk. It’s an interesting play on words because people usually make vows when they have something difficult and positive to accomplish, for example, wedding vows. But in this instance, it is quite the opposite where he makes the vow of something like getting drunk. After he makes this vow to get drunk he takes us through the experience through with imagery. He talks about seeing the crowd’s mood change by the minute because they’re getting more and more intoxicated.
Along with the way he is able to paint pictures to his listeners, Kedrick also uses exaggeration as a rhetorical device perfectly through hyperboles In his chorus:
I’ma show you how to turn it up a notch/
First you get a swimming pool full of liquor, then you dive in it/
Pool full of liquor, then you dive in it/
He uses hyperbole to highlight the ridiculousness and exaggeration of some people’s consumption of alcohol. Hyperboles are a big part of music and rap especially. Through hyperboles, a writer can tell a story with more spice making it more interesting to the reader or listener.
Swimming pools are a song more about how alcohol affected Kendrick as a kid and as a performer throughout the start of his career. He was able to paint a perfect picture for the listener with his poetic lyrics and use of literary devices.