The single is an introspective regarding Lamar's perceived familial and social alcoholism, and the peer pressure which accompanies it amongst his friends. In the first verse, he remembers his grandfather's drinking and resulting death, and the reasons that led Lamar himself to drinking. The hook, from the perspective of his peers, is the social pressure pressed upon him to "get a swimming pool full of liquor" and then "dive in it". At the second verse, Lamar, now drunk, is conversing with his own subconscious, which is attempting to warn him of "drown[ing] in some poison". By the final verse of the song, Lamar is accepting his fate that he believes he will "probably sleep and never ever wake up".
The extended album version of the track feature an interlude and a skit that expands on the concept story of the album. Now drunk and eager to impress his peers, he thinks once more of the album's love interest, Sherane, before detailing a shoot-out between Lamar's friends and their gang rivals, in which his friend's brother is shot and killed. "Swimming Pools (Drank)" is the album's lead single and the follow-up to Lamar's debut single "The Recipe".
The music video, directed by Jerome D, premiered August 3, 2012 on 106 & Park. A review by the magazineRolling Stone shared a summary of the video stating: "In his new video for 'Swimming Pools (Drank),' Kendrick Lamar defies gravity, floating and tumbling in suspended space as liquor bottles fly upwards and smash into the ceiling. The rapper gets introspective on a woozy beat, considering the highs and lows of alcohol consumption and the sense of confidence it bestows upon the drinker. Lamar spends most of the video rapping alone, but color-filtered shots of a booze-soaked rager poke through the more contemplative scenes."
On 14 March 2013 producer Dev Hynes uploaded a reinterpreted rendition of the track by English R&B group, Mutya Keisha Siobhan to his official Soundcloud page. The track, entitled 'Lay Down in Swimming Pools', features an interpolation of the original Lamar song. Hynes later commented saying "Just finished recording new music with Mutya, Keisha and Siobhan, And the girls felt like having a bit of fun at the end of the last session - enjoy!!" The group's interpretation received rave reviews from music critics.
In its first week of release the song debuted at number 100 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained within the chart for another week, but two weeks later re-entered the Hot 100 and climbed up each week, progressing from the top 90 to number eighty-one, seventy-one and sixty-one. In its tenth week, "Swimming Pools (Drank)" climbed up to number 55 and the following week entered the top 40 of the Hot 100 at number thirty-two, moving up to twenty-five and peaking at number 17. On the UK Singles Chart the song entered at number 63, remaining in the top 100 for one week. The song is Kendrick Lamar's highest-charting single in on the Billboard Hot 100 and on the UK Singles Chart.
^Lamar, Kendrick (5 August 2012). "My Favorite Things, Part II". RapGenius. Retrieved 14 January 2013. "This song is about me reminising about my years a kid witnessing a housing that indulged adults in alcohol. So much alcohol that it could fill a swimming pool. Eventually that me reminising became a reality when i became an adult"