Kendrick Lamar Tightens his Reigns on Hip Hop with “Humble”
Kendrick Lamar dropped his latest single and video “Humble” on the 3rd day after the 1st new moon of spring. The video earned the rapper his highest Billboard Hot 100 debut (#2) and gained over 20 million YouTube views in a few days. The visual features Kendrick in a variety show of scenes: the church, a money room, an underpass, a salon, and more. So, what’s the point of “Humble”— a catchy, yet comical diss-type track with an exciting, yet slightly confusing video?
Who needs a coherent plot line, when you’re Kendrick Lamar? His last album, “To Pimp A Butterfly” was a leading edge jazz soul hip hop story of a young man battling and overcoming the challenges of sex, love, money, fame, depression, and deeper levels of consciousness. The first single was an Isley Brother-sampled optimistic jam, “I Love Myself.”
But, the hyper-macho beef bug bit K.Dot a few songs ago. And now Kendrick wants to show us that he can do anything, even dress up like a priest. The lyrics of “Humble” paint a magically rhymed and discombobulated picture of his rise out of poverty into a role of international influence. And the song quite often takes jabs at some unknown, very egotistical, rapper. Mr. Lamar’s lyrics seem well crafted yet typical, claiming to be the G.O.A.T., the “realest nigga after all”, the one who “blew cool from AC”.
But then, Kendrick cuts to a hip-hop styled last supper scene. He is in the center with six disciples who are clearly enjoying a life of good fortune as well. When one of his crew stands above the rest and becomes abrasive, Kendrick reaches up and reminds him to sit down and humble himself. Kendrick is not asking for his worship, he is asking the left hand man to respect the greatness of each man at the table and they return to an equal seating. The message: keep the ego in check; we’re all in this together. Imagine if more rappers, artists, and business people took this idea into consideration.
Kendrick is an organic thinker—a creative who opposes and makes it cool to transcend mainstream thought. This is certainly a pleasant contrast to the saturation of drugs, violence and bad sex that fills most of trendy rap music. Unfortunately, the hyper-critiques from feminist about the lyrics and video were not surprising, even in the face of so many other pressing political national and international issues. No matter the current cultural climate Kendrick continually creates music and visuals that highlight and uplift the diversity and beauty of black culture.
“Humble” is an editing delight that brings to life-hidden gems of black culture and takes risky clap backs at white mainstream institutions; the video calls for more natural beauty and conjures a desire for a greater truth in a society run by images on screens. The video reveals the imaginative potential of the rapper and his creative team, as Kendrick is clearly laying out his manifesto and utilizing art to push boundaries and paint empowering images for now and the future.