Meaning of African (Igbo) Symbols in Kendrick Lamar’s – All The Stars

06/02/2018 – Kendrick Lamar releases the video to his latest single “All the stars” and it’s riddled with Igbo symbols.

Most Igbo people will instantly be able to recognise the very familiar Igbo red cap (fez). The “red cap” in Igboland is currently a symbol of authority, culture and tradition. Historically, some writers suggest it was introduced by the British during the colonial era, the red cap was given to chief wardens who were put in power during British colonial rule, this was a way to enforce rules since many Igbo clans didn’t have kings. However this is disputed by others who claim the felt red caps are a modern adaptation of historic caps made from palm tree fronds.

redcap historic

Okpu – likely made with palm fronds similar to the ones that farmers used to wear.


red cap

Red caps appear at 0:25


Igbo red cap variants

The golden graphical symbols displayed in the background as Kendrick walks through the room are heavily reminiscent of the Igbo/Ekpe Ukara cloth.

ukara kendrick

Appears @3:01 in the All the Stars music video starring Kendrick Lamar and Sza.

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Ekpe Ukara Cloth

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Ekpe men wearing Ukara cloth

The Ekpe (leopard) society was a secret society present in southeastern Nigeria and western Cameroon among the Igbo, Efik, Oron and neighbours.  The group also wrote using a pictographic writing script called the Nsibidi. This is often featured on many Ukara cloth patterns.

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Symbols from the Nsibidi script

The Ekpe society would use ritual propitiation of forest spirits to ensure the well-being of the community and enforce laws.

Other than Igbo symbols, the video also features several African influences, a favourite is what looks like Ghanaian Kente cloth style cut outs on the floor which SZA is lying.

Sza lying on Kente cloth

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Typical Ghanaian Kente Cloth

4 replies »

  1. It’s documented that EKPE society belongs only to Efik people and Örö people,the Igbos probably adopted it.

    Good work here though.

    • They are neighbours with a shared history. It’s documented and presently evident that the Ekpe society spread into the southeastern Igbo regions particularly under the Aro confederacy which ruled the region for centuries. There is a heavy Igbo presence and input into the Ekpe society. For example see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37Z9hzf-9cA there are always Ekpe Igbos present at the Aro Ikeji.

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