For his second DAMN. album music video “DNA,” Kendrick Lamar decided to add a bit of Hollywood prestige to the project and cast his friend Don Cheadle to appear as a cop conducting an interrogation. What Cheadle didn’t know going in was that K Dot based his Kung Fu Kenny persona on Cheadle’s character from Rush Hour 2 . Though he even dressed like him, the reference that went all the way over the actor’s head as they filmed the video together.
In an interview with Pitchfork, Cheadle talked about long he went until finally putting it all together. “I didn’t know that until the next day. He got that from my character in Rush Hour 2,” Cheadle said.
“I went to Coachella and saw him perform, and I saw the video before the thing and still didn’t figure it out. And then I went on Twitter and someone had randomly tweeted, ‘Don Cheadle is the original Kung Fu Kenny.’ I went, ‘Wait a minute, I did play a character named Kenny who did kung fu and spoke Chinese.’ And I texted Kendrick and was like, ‘Hey man, am I the inspiration for Kung Fu Kenny? Because I’m going to say I am whether I am or not.” He was like, “Fam, that was the surprise. So, surprise!” Oh sh*t! I feel stupid now.
In another interview with Billboard, Cheadle also revealed that he very nearly cast Kendrick in his biopic about Miles Davis. “He was somebody that I thought could play Junior in Miles Ahead, but he was busy working on To Pimp a Butterfly, which turned out great for everybody, right?” Cheadle said. “He got to create that album and we got Keith Stanfield [for Junior]. So, everybody was happy.”