Track Review: Kendrick Lamar

HUMBLE. – Kendrick Lamar (Aftermath, Interscope, Top Dawg Entertainment)

In anticipation of DAMN. coming out on Friday, I decided to do a quick review of Kendrick Lamar’s lead single for the album.

This track is pretty far removed from anything Compton’s favourite son has done in the past in that it is so simple and hard-hitting. Production from Mike Will Made-It helps it gain this bare and skeletal yet bouncy and electrifying feel, through a gritty piano riff that is unlike anything we’ve heard Lamar use before.

The lyrical content also touches on new ground for Kendrick in that it is far more direct about being the best. The premise of the song is basically that Kendrick is allowed to brag however he so pleases now that he has three pretty much undisputed classics under his belt. Some have speculated that the hook is telling someone specifically to “sit down, be humble”. The use of the ad-lib “hol’ up, lil bitch” has brought the song even more attention, many believing the rapper in Kendrick’s sights is actually Big Sean, who frequently uses a similar ad-lib. Perhaps more evidence of a beef brewing will surface on Friday when Kendrick releases his fourth studio album DAMN.

I feel on this track Kendrick thinks he can allow himself to be a little more braggadocios than he has in the past because of his confirmed status in the hip-hop game and the fact that he has so many awards and achievements. Here, he tends to keep things pretty straightforward, not letting himself get as deep as he has on previous releases. Despite this, he reels off some phenomenal lines in the first verse, plenty of double entendres and goes on to discuss beauty standards for women in verse two. This is pretty groundbreaking, I suppose, in that he says he prefers natural beauty in comparison to the “Photoshop” women that so many other rappers are infatuated by. I’m not 100% sure if it is intentional all the time but Kendrick comes off so much more socially conscious than a lot of his peers in the hip-hop industry.

Kendrick Lamar put out an insane video for this track too. If you haven’t seen it already, it’s an early front-runner for video of the year. The fisheye angle of Kendrick on a bike is so effective and comes across so well in the video. The Last Supper-style shot which depicts Kendrick as a modern Jesus could refer not only to him being betrayed (perhaps by Big Sean with the subliminal shots on No More Interviews) but also to the fact that he sees himself as the rap game’s Jesus Christ. In one shot, Lamar is surrounded by hundreds of bald bobbing heads while his, in the middle, stays still. They all, apart from Kendrick, look the same. Imagery like this suggests Kendrick sees himself as different to the rest of his contemporaries. He isn’t in sync with everyone else.And he doesn’t have to be in order to be successful which is made clear by the fact that this very track debuted at #2 in the Billboard Hot 100, the highest charting hip-hop single since Eminem’s “Love The Way You Lie” in 2010.

HUMBLE. is an awesome track, an exciting teaser for DAMN. Kendrick Lamar’s fans are probably in for yet another hip-hop masterclass on Friday if this is anything to go by.

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