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The Definitive Analysis of Kendall Roy’s Rap From ‘Succession’

We listened to it dozens of times so that you don’t have to

HBO/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Kendall Roy is a broken man. That much is clear. But heading into Sunday night’s episode of Succession, perhaps you figured—between committing involuntary manslaughter, becoming the number one boy, gutting his precious digital media enterprise Vaulter, snorting a submarine’s worth of cocaine, being forced by Logan to visit the family of the person he killed, and generally being an absolute mess—that we’d completely mined the tragic depths of Kendall’s psychological ruin. Well, you’d be wrong, because Succession still had its biggest, cringiest card up its sleeve. And now I can’t stop thinking about it.

I’m talking about—what else?—Kendall’s “L to the OG,” a bonkers rap he wrote to commemorate 50 years of Logan running Waystar Royco. The lead-up to “L to the OG” is not unlike watching a car wreck in patented Zack Snyder slow-motion, as Kendall jumps on stage at the family’s black-tie gala, removes his tuxedo jacket to reveal a custom Logan Roy–themed baseball jersey, and unintentionally warns his captive audience about what is to come by saying “my boy Squiggle cooked up this beat for me.” And then Kendall begins to rap. The reactions from other characters cover a broad spectrum of emotions, from pure glee (is this the happiest Shiv’s been all season?) to profound second-hand embarrassment (most everyone else).

Technically, “L to the OG” is over in less than two minutes—it does, however, feel like it stretches on for an eternity. Its impact is certainly life-altering. I’ve rewatched “L to the OG” upwards of three dozen times—several of which came courtesy of Timothy Burke, who removed all the excess dialogue so you can inhale the totality of Kendall spitting (extremely cringey) bars. I have never been more sure that Jeremy Strong deserves an Emmy for his performance this season. As for the rap itself? Like all great art, it is challenging, thought-provoking, and begs for trenchant analysis. Therefore, we’re going to go through Kendall’s “L to the OG” and break down each verse for both context and how much each of them made me want to curl up in a ball and die. Hit it, DJ Squiggle.

Born on the North Bank, King of the East Side
Fifty years strong, now he’s rollin’ in a sick ride
Handmade suits, raking in loot
Five-star general, y’all, best salute

Kendall opens with a quick geography lesson. Logan was born in Dundee: the fourth-largest city in Scotland, situated on the north bank of the Firth of Tay, which leads into the North Sea. (Bonus points since this rap is actually happening in Dundee.) Now that the Waystar kingdom is based in Manhattan, “King of the East Side” would either refer to Logan’s penthouse or Waystar HQ. To the best of my knowledge, the Waystar corporate building is located in FiDi—Succession’s opening credits linger on the World Trade Center, and Kendall was running through the district last season trying to make it to the shareholder’s meeting—so it’s safe to assume Kendall is referring to Logan’s penthouse. It makes sense; Logan spends a lot of his time scheming at home, anyway.

Emphasizing Logan’s immense wealth—“handmade suits, raking in loot”—is, naturally, a recurring theme of the rap. I would just like to add that Kendall’s literal salute in the direction of his father was the first time I put my hands over my face in a half-hearted attempt to shield myself from the pain.

Roman: [Interrupting] Oh, no.

Same.

Yo, bitches be catty, but the king’s my daddy
Rock all the haters while we go roll a ’rati
Squiggle on the decks, Kenny on the rhyme
And Logan big ballin’ on Hamptons time

The lyrics in this section were hard to make out in the actual episode, because most of the rap is interrupted by Roman and Tabitha’s reveling in the sheer horror of it all. Thankfully, the video with the dialogue removed makes it much easier to parse. (I thought he said “Henny on the rocks,” but “Kenny on the rhyme” makes more sense since it rhymes with “Hamptons time,” which I’m 100 percent certain he did say.) Logan and Waystar do have their haters—they’re in the midst of dealing with a sexual misconduct scandal; they propagate right-wing fear-mongering at ATN—but Kendall intuitively understands his father, noted big baller (not the brand), is seemingly untouchable while perched at the top of his throne.

The Hamptons callback is also a nice touch. That’s where Logan convened the family in the Season 2 premiere to posit a Waystar successor, and his Hamptons house is, per his ex-wife and Kendall’s mother Caroline, one of his favorite homes. (As we learned this week when Shiv gave Logan a photo album of all the Roy family homes, though, there’s so many he can’t remember all of them.) The Squiggle shout-out is the icing on the cake—he is evidently the DJ Mustard of the Succession universe.

L to the OG
Dude be the OG
A-N he playin’
Playin’ like a pro, see

L to the OG
Dude be the OG
A-N he playin’
Playin’ like a pro

Here’s the uncomfortable truth we have to reckon with: Until we get to the chorus, Kendall’s bars aren’t actually that bad. Like, you’re not gonna want him to sign a record deal, but his flow is a marked improvement over his painfully jamming to the Beastie Boys in his car in the pilot. The chorus, however, is when things totally unravel.

The lines “L to the OG / Dude be the OG” are, and I don’t say this lightly, some of the worst sounds I’ve ever heard. “OG” and “pro, see” is also really straining, but not nearly as bad as the “A-N” thrown in there to complete the spelling of Logan’s name. You definitely get the impression that when Kendall was writing this rap at his desk while scrolling Hypebeast dot com and realized Logan’s name lends itself to clever OG wordplay, he looked around the room and quietly high-fived himself.

Kendall: Make some noise!

[Crowd makes a moderate amount of noise]

There are few things more painful than trying to elicit some joy out of a crowd that is, for the most part, extremely not into something. Just ask James Cameron.

A1 ratings, 80K wine
Never gonna stop, baby, fuck father time
Bro, don’t get it twisted, I’ve been through hell
But since I stan Dad, I’m alive and well

We have Kendall feeding his father’s insatiable ego and Logan’s insistence that he isn’t close to calling it quits at Waystar. That verse disregards the fact that Logan is now into his 80s, recently suffered a near-fatal brain hemorrhage, and has been more fallible of late. (The cruise line moral reckoning awaits!) Of course, Kendall knows this. That’s why he tried and failed to usurp his father—twice!—in the first season. “I’ve been through hell” is somehow an understatement given what we’ve seen Kendall suffer through under Logan’s thumb.

Again, given what we know about the number one boy, “since I stan Dad, I’m alive and well” is utterly unconvincing and further (albeit unnecessary) evidence that Kendall is Corn Cobbed. But keep rapping through the internalized pain, buddy!

Shaper of views, creator of news
Father of many, paid all his dues
So don’t try to run, your mouth at the king
Just pucker up, bitch, and go kiss the ring

Calling Logan a “shaper of views, creator of news” is horrifying when contextualized, considering what ATN feeds to its conservative-leaning viewers. (It took a Rhea Jarrell ultimatum for ATN to ax its popular political pundit who was a damn neo-Nazi!) But it’s also, unfortunately, an apt descriptor for the guy—as is incorporating “kiss the ring,” which evokes The Godfather and the Pope in equal measure. I’m sure L to the OG is thrilled with the comparison to both.

L to the OG
Dude be the OG
A-N he playin’

Yeah, this doesn’t get any more palatable the second time.

Kendall: MAKE SOME NOISE!
[Crowd makes slightly more noise than before]

Meanwhile, I’m on my sofa, screaming into the void.

When I say L, you say OG
L to the …

[No response from crowd]

L to the …

Crowd: [Sort of into it] OG!

L to the …

To quote Roman: “You need to stop this.”

Crowd: [Again kind of ambivalent] OG!

L to the …

[Kendall puts hat on Logan Roy]

L to the motherfucking OG

We have finally—mercifully—reached the end of the song. Like Dale Cooper at the end of Twin Peaks: The Return, I stumble out of this haze and DJ Squiggle’s dank beat, wondering what year it is. Kendall did save the worst for last, though, planting a tartan-patterned snapback on dear old dad—ratcheting the cringe level to Succession’s new, possibly unassailable peak:

Regardless of what transpires over the final two episodes of the season, “L to the OG” is a transcendent moment that will be impossible to forget. Its so-bad-it’s-good pull is inescapable. A piece of pop culture hasn’t been this inspiring and uncomfortable since Venom. (I’m willing to go on the record and say “L to the OG” is, in fact, better than Eminem’s original track, “Venom.”)

Where do we go from here? Succession has proved that its hot streak from the back half of last season was no fluke—every episode of this second season has been a goddamn delight. The series should fill the HBO Emmys void that Game of Thrones leaves in its wake. The problem is the Emmys are a year away. That’s a long time for Emmy voters, just as liable to get sucked into the vortex of Peak TV as the rest of us, to become distracted by other series worthy of praise.

There’s a perfect solution. In the lead-up to the 2020 Emmy nominations, HBO should announce that Jeremy Strong will do a live performance of “L to the OG” at the ceremony. If any of us are able to get this earworm out of our heads by then, the news drop will be enough to bring it all back. (Plus, considering Strong possibly wore the same suit at this year’s Emmys that he was sporting in this episode, it seems he knows how to lean into a bit.) Just imagine: Jeremy Strong wearing that garish baseball jersey and putting the same hat on a bemused Brian Cox in the audience before going up later in the night to collect his much-deserved Emmy.

This simply needs to happen. Kendall Roy might be an absolute train wreck with daddy issues and a cringeworthy affinity for rap music, but Jeremy Strong? As if we needed any more proof, dude be the OG.

Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.