Why those who unjustly rule the land will be swallowed by the ground
It’s so hard to be humble
It’s so hard to be
Just like Kendrick, Rihanna recognizes that she has royalty in her DNA. Like Kendrick, Rihanna’s status as queen makes her prone to becoming a savage beast. Furthermore, her identity as a woman gives her even more incentive to hold on to pride and protect herself through violent means. However, this outro marks a turning point for Rihanna as she allows herself to be vulnerable for the first time on the track.
That Time Queen RiRi Went Hard on a Bitch
This turn toward vulnerability is emphasized by a noticeable stylistic change. The outro is the first time on the track that we hear Rihanna sing openly without a rap delivery. Up until this point Rihanna has been rapping right alongside Kendrick, almost equally splitting the verses with him. Such gender equality is quite rare in hip hop features. It is far more common that a hip hop artist will bring in a woman to sing the hook in order to attract radio play.
The fact that Kendrick chose to use Rihanna’s feature in a non-standard way may indicate that Kendrick intended to make a statement with her appearance on “LOYALTY.”. One clue to Kendrick’s intention might be to consider other songs in which Rihanna has utilized a rap delivery. Of these songs, one of the most notable is her track “Bitch Better Have My Money” — a song in which Rihanna threatens violence against a man unless he pays his debt to her.
Louis XIII, and it’s all on me, nigga, you just bought a shot
Kamikaze, if you think that you gon’ knock me off the top
Shit, your wife in the backseat of my brand new foreign car
Don’t act like you forgot
I call the shots, shots, shots
Like bra, bra, bra
Pay me what you owe me, don’t act like you forgot
Bitch better have my money
Bitch better have my money
Pay me what you owe me
Just in case the lyrics didn’t go hard enough, Rihanna also released an infamous NSFW music video for the song. In the video, Rihanna and her friends kidnap a rich woman, stuff her in a large suitcase, strip her naked, drug her and torture her. It would seem that this woman is the “wife in the backseat of my foreign car” which the song’s pre-chorus mentions.
Later in the video we meet the woman’s husband who is introduced as “The Accountant aka ‘The Bitch’”. It would would seem that this accountant used to work for Rihanna. However, the video also indicates that he has been using Rihanna’s credit card to steal large amounts of money from her — which is exactly why she wants the bitch to pay her what he owes her.
At the climax of the music video, we see the accountant tied up in a chair while a scantily-clad Rihanna approaches him with a knife. The video then cuts to the final scene where we see the suitcase in which Rihanna kidnapped the accountant’s wife and a woman hanging out of the suitcase. The ironic twist is that now the woman in the suitcase is Rihanna. Rihanna is mostly naked, covered in blood and lying in the large suitcase which is filled with the money she forced the bitch to pay her.
While the actions depicted in the video are almost certainly fictional, several media outlets have asserted that the video was inspired by Rihanna’s real life troubles with an accountant who squandered $9 million out of Rihanna’s $11 million net worth. If these media outlets are correct, “Bitch Better Have My Money” is an authentic representation of Rihanna’s intuition to keep her family close, get money and fuck bitches. Kendrick’s choice to feature her as a rapper on this track is an intentional reference to how Rihanna’s experience would motivate her to flip out, kill someone and, thereafter, demand absolute loyalty from anyone around her. Furthermore, the gender equality of the song further highlights the fact that Rihanna is an earthly queen to the same extent that Kendrick is an earthly king. They are both sides of Humanity choosing to rule by redefining good and evil on their own terms — just like the man and woman in the Garden of Delight.
More profoundly, the video for BBHMM is the visual embodiment of the chorus from “ELEMENT.”:
If I gotta go hard on a bitch, Imma make it look sexy
In the video, Rihanna uses nudity and dark humor to make her graphic violence look sexy. Even though Rihanna is from the relatively luxurious Caribbean island of Barbados rather than the downtrodden Compton, she nonetheless is enslaved by the same basic spirits that have led Kendrick toward violence. The similarities all point to the last image in the video: Rihanna seemingly naked, laying in dollar bills, covered in her enemy’s blood. Sex, money, and murder are in her DNA just like everyone else.
(Just in case one still thinks that the connections between “Bitch Better Have My Money” and “LOYALTY.” are a coincidence, Kendrick will specifically bring up Rihanna’s accountant later on the track “FEAR.”)
A Love that Deals with Death
As Rihanna reflects on her past choices and her recent understanding of what loyalty to God requires, she realizes that she is utterly incapable of living under God’s rule. As she comes to the end of herself, all she can do is hope that God honors her choice to wrestle with God and trust that God recognizes her limits as a mortal creature
Lord knows I’m tryin’
Lord knows I’m dyin’, baby
Here Queen RiRi expresses the same humble hope as King David expressed in a Psalm which spoke of David’s confidence in the Lord’s loyal love.
For as the skies are high above the earth,
so his loyal love towers over his faithful followers.
As far as the eastern horizon is from the west,
so he removes the guilt of our rebellious actions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on his faithful followers.
For he knows what we are made of;
he remembers that we are dust.
- Psalms 103:11–14
This poem speaks of how God relates to both Rihanna and Kendrick, even after they each rebelled against God and turned toward violence. Because of God’s loyal love, God remains ready to forgive them both and free them from their feelings of guilt. God is like a father who both chastises his children and offers them great compassion. God does this because he knows that His children are dying. He remembers that — just like Humanity in the Garden of Delight — all humans are made out of dust which will be here today and gone tomorrow.
God recognizes that the fear of death is the basic motivation for humans to hold on to pride and loyalty to themselves above all others. God loves Kendrick in spite of their corrupted state. However, God also loves Kendrick too much to leave him in such a precarious, self-exalted state. God must deal with death by having Kendrick face his fear of death. Thus, just like King Nebuchadnezzar, God humbles both Kendrick and Rihanna by bringing them down into the earth amongst the wild animals. The music video for “LOYALTY.” visually depicts this humbling process by showing Kendrick and Rihanna sinking down into the ground.
The Rich Swallowed by the Ground
It would seem Kendrick and Rihanna have now succumbed to the same fate as the one that 2Pac mentioned during during the “Mortal Man” interview.
I always wanted to ask you about a certain situa…
About a metaphor actually, you spoke on the ground
What you mean ‘bout that, what the ground represent?
The ground is gonna open up and swallow the evil
That’s how I see it, my word is bond.
I see and the ground is the symbol for the poor people,
The poor people is gonna open up this whole world
And swallow up the rich people
’Cause the rich people gonna be so fat, they gonna be so appetizing,
You know what I’m saying, wealthy, appetizing
The poor gonna be so poor and hungry
You know what I’m saying it’s gonna be like
There might be some cannibalism out this mutha, they might eat the rich
As kings and queens who are primarily concerned with their subjects handing over money, Kendrick and Rihanna have become the rich people who the poor people will soon be ready to eat alive. Unless King Kendrick and Queen RiRi begin to let go of their attachments to wealth and status, they will continue to live like beasts in a world where they must kill or be killed. The irony here is that the oppressed black people whom Kendrick sought to uplift on TPAB would likely be the first people to go after Kendrick as he flaunts his wealth. Black power will eventually prove to be powerless to stop violence perpetrated by cowards. Only a power not of this world can bring humans of all colors into complete unity.
While 2Pac’s words were the most prominent foreshadow of Kendrick’s current predicament, they were not the only warning that Kendrick has previously received. The image of Kendrick and Rihanna sinking into the ground is also reminiscent of at least three different biblical passages.
Korah’s Rebels Swallowed by the Ground
If one wanted to find a biblical story that may have inspired 2Pac’s discussion of “the ground”, the most appropriate choice would be the failed rebellion from Number 16. In that story, a group of Levites led by a man named Korah started a rebellion against Moses. These rebels resented the fact that Moses had become something akin to a king. As a result, they sought to leave their former leader for dead and establish themselves as kings over a newly formed society. Moses warned Korah and the Levites that exalting themselves in this way would only lead to God bringing them down into the grave. When the rebels rejected Moses’s warning, Moses warned the other Israelites to separate themselves from the rebels and anything that the rebels had taken into their possessions.
Moses spoke to the congregation, saying, “Depart, please, from the houses (literally: tents) of these evil men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest you be consumed in all their sins!”
As Moses finished speaking all these words, the ground that was under them split apart. The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households, all of Korah’s men, and all their goods. So they, and all that belonged to them went down alive into the Pit (Hebrew: Sheol). The earth closed on them, and they perished from among the assembly.
- Numbers 16:26,31–33
Like Korah, Kendrick and Rihanna have chosen to rebel against the lawgiver — Moses in the former case and Jesus in the latter. Like Korah, Kendrick and Rihanna seek to become the leaders of a society which will pledge loyalty to the new rulers. Like Korah, material possessions have become a snare which will likely lead Kendrick and Rihanna to the grave.
The Foolish Man Swallowed by the Sand
Speaking of houses being swallowed in a sandy desert, if one considers the ground to be an image of quick sand then it would seem to be connected with the last section of the Sermon on the Mount which we discussed during our analysis of “YAH.”. In that section, Jesus closes the Sermon by giving an illustration of the difference between those who hear Jesus’s commandments and follow them versus those who hear Jesus’s commandments but nonetheless choose not to follow them.
Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house; and yet it did not fall, for its foundation had been built on the rock.
Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house; and it fell — and great was its fall.
- Matthew 7:24–27
In this analogy, Kendrick and Rihanna are the foolish humans who now find their livelihoods sinking into the sand. They built their houses — i.e. their royal dynasties — upon a foundation other than Jesus’s commandments to both love God and love their neighbors. Instead their livelihoods are built on maintaining their net worth, which — as Rihanna has discovered — might require killing other humans. They have thus become monarchs in the spirit of King Killmonger — who on “King’s Dead” boastfully declared that he was “not your people, not your neighbor” and thus under no compulsion to obey the second great commandment to “not bear a grudge against the children of your people” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” Such dynastic house will invariably sink into destruction when the winds of change blow and the stormy circumstances finally inspire the poor to rise up against the rich. Thus, rather than establishing their royalty upon the money and violence required to build structures dedicated to their own glory, they should have established their royalty on the kind of love for one’s enemies that would allow them to be united as part of God’s eternal temple.
Jonah Swallowed by the Sea (and a Fish for Good Measure)
As one final layer of meaning, one could also observe that the ground below Kendrick and Rihanna has become a strange, watery grave in which they are drowning. In case being buried under the watery ground does not assure their deaths, the concrete sea seem to contain carnivorous fish which are seeking to eat Kendrick alive.
Thus, it would seem that while the image of quicksand connects to DAMN’s restatement of the Sermon on the Mount, the shark-infested, watery ground connects to DAMN’s restatement of the Book of Jonah. In particular, the album has reached the point at the end of the chapter 1, in which Jonah is sinking into the sea as a carnivorous fish prepares to eat Jonah.
If DAMN. continues to follow the narrative of the Book of Jonah one would expect the next track to discuss Kendrick humbling journey to the bottom. That is exactly what we’ll explore on the next track, “PRIDE.”