I was in heat like a cactus, my tactics of being thirsty
Probably could hurt me, but fuck it I got some heart
Grab my momma's keys, hopped in the car, then oh boy
A cactus is a plant commonly found in hot, dry, climates. Cacti survive by extracting as much water as they can from any source they can find. You could say they are extremely “thirsty”, as most things are in the desert.
Kendrick’s “thirst” is for sex; he’s trying to get as much as he can, from any source, like a cactus in a desert.
Animal’s are said to be “in heat” during breeding periods — they experience an extreme need for sex due to instinct. This is likely similar to the feelings young people (especially males) get during puberty.
This all adds to the theme of teenage lust in this song. Kendrick knows deep down that this recklessness could get him in trouble but his thirst for sex fill his heart with courage and drain his mind of reason.
The line also shares desert imagery with lines in the first verse. The desert imagery may mirror the lack of love, security, and/or self-worth felt by young Kendrick. Being thirsty he seeks it in sin, and it isn’t until toward the end of the album that he finds a true source of water.
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