Rolling Stone stated the song "teases the dark underbelly of sudden fame and offers a peek at the rapper's life when he hit his lowest points", while Billboard editor Kris Ex wrote that Lamar "is pondering sex and existence in equal measure; it's a yoni metaphor about the power of peace, with sugar walls being escape and real walls being obstacles."
The video features an appearance by American actor Terry Crews
The song's music video premiered on October 28, 2015, on Lamar's Vevo account. It was directed by Colin Tilley and The Little Homies. Entitled "Behind the Walls: A Black Comedy", the clip opens in a jail cell with Corey Holcomb and then flashes back to a wild night at an apartment complex – from strippers, to drugs, altercations, and skits. Lamar first appears in his room grinding with a girl while her girlfriends catch it all on camera. He then crashes the stage at a talent show and performs "Hit the Quan" alongside Terry Crews. Meanwhile, Isaiah Rashad gets tied up and seduced in his bedroom, and SZA finds Lamar crashing through her apartment wall. By the end of the night, the cops come calling and Holcomb's character gets arrested. The video ends with "To be continued". For Rap-Up, "the Compton rapper shows his comedic side (and dance moves) in the cinematic clip."
On May 27, 2015, Lamar performed the song live on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, complete with a white-clad couple who danced around the stage as a nearby artist painted a portrait of them. "These Walls" was featured on the Kunta’s Groove Sessions tour.