Kendrick Lamar’s new “DNA.” video features appearances from Schoolboy Q and K. Dot’s little niece, but the coolest guest star by far is Don Cheadle. The actor plays a suited investigator who aggressively lip-syncs the song back and forth with Lamar in a mesmerizing display. It may have seemed like a random casting, but there’s actually an awesome reason why Cheadle appeared in the vid, and it all has to do with the nickname “Kung Fu Kenny.”
Lamar mentions the moniker several times on his recently released album DAMN., and his Coachella headlining set even opened with a kung fu-style short film. Turns out, “Kung Fu Kenny” is a reference to Cheadle’s small role in the 2001 sequel Rush Hour 2.
In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, Cheadle admits he only understood the Rush Hour 2 reference after the video premiered and a fan pointed it out on Twitter. “I texted [Lamar]. I said, ‘Is Kung Fu Kenny me?’” Cheadle recalled, adding that Lamar “confirmed” that he was indeed the inspiration.
Cheadle also spoke with EW about the “intimidating” process of memorizing Lamar’s intense raps and miming them to the Compton rapper himself.
“I listened to the track, and I was like, ‘You’re out of your mind. Like, have you heard how you rap?'” Cheadle said. “I crammed, like we often do as actors, and with some directing and editing, they made it work. ... All that back and forth we were doing was just completely improv, which was fun for me. ... It’s tricky with Kendrick because the complexities of how his thoughts work. It’s very poetic, and it’s not linear, necessarily.”
He’s right — they made it work, and they made it look so dope. Revisit the magic below.