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.

#BBAR #BoomBapAndAcidRap

 

Twitter – @boombapacidrap / @peter_tomlinson

 

Facebook – www.facebook.com/boombapandacidrap

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The Boom Bap and Acid Rap 2016 Year End Awards, Pt. 7

ALBUM OF THE YEAR:

THE SHORTLIST:

  • A TRIBE CALLED QUEST – WE GOT IT FROM HERE… THANK YOU 4 YOUR SERVICE
  • KENDRICK LAMAR – UNTITLED UNMASTERED
  • TRAVIS SCOTT – BIRDS IN THE TRAP SING McKNIGHT
  • ANDERSON .PAAK – MALIBU
  • SKEPTA – KONNICHIWA
  • DANNY BROWN – ATROCITY EXHIBITION
  • KEVIN GATES – ISLAH
  • YG – STILL BRAZY

THE WINNER:

  • TRAVIS SCOTT – BIRDS IN THE TRAP SING McKNIGHTtravis-scott

If you listen to only eight albums this year, make it these ones. Every single one of them is a masterpiece in its own right. YG remained the flag-bearer of modern West Coast gangster rap. Skepta crossed the pond with the very British Konnichiwa. Kendrick Lamar managed to get into the conversation by putting out a collection of leftovers from his previous two albums. A Tribe Called Quest surprised everyone by recreating their signature sound in 2016. Danny Brown gave a perfectly gritty account of his drug abuse and mental health over cluttered, biting beats on Atrocity Exhibition. Anderson .Paak properly introduced himself to the world stage after featuring heavily on Dr. Dre’s Compton the year previously with an album that infused countless genres. Kevin Gates went from internet darling to outselling Adele in first week sales.

Despite all this, Travis Scott let his ambition carry him to putting out the greatest album of ate, with fourteen excellent tracks. A star-studded supporting cast including Andre 3000, The Weeknd, Kid Cudi, Kendrick Lamar and Bryson Tiller helped BITTSM overcome all its competition this year. Peaking at number one in the Billboard 200, Scott became an icon with this album.

SIDENOTE:

ferg

The worst hip-hop album this year goes to A$AP Ferg with Always Strive and Prosper. I’m not sure if it’s just because he’s frequently seen beside the most charismatic man in hip-hop, A$AP Rocky but Ferg is probably the least cool rapper there is. Despite being woefully lame, Ferg’s music is usually pretty good. His 2013 debut album Trap Lord was critically acclaimed and was admittedly excellent. However, this year, Ferg’s music seems to have caught up with his personality. Always Strive and Prosper comes off like it’s confused and directionless and may have driven off some of the fans he won with Trap Lord. Apart from New Level which was brilliant (wholly thanks to Future), nothing here stands out at all. Sure, the production values are high and he has some high-profile features but the lostness and distractedness of it all just makes it unlistenable.

The Boom Bap and Acid Rap 2016 Year End Awards, Pt. 6

TRACK OF THE YEAR:

THE SHORTLIST:

  • KID CUDI (feat. PHARRELL WILLIAMS) – SURFIN’
  • SCHOOLBOY Q – THAT PART (BLACK HIPPY REMIX)
  • DESIIGNER – PANDA
  • ANDERSON .PAAK – COME DOWN
  • D.R.A.M. (feat. LIL YACHTY) – BROCCOLI
  • KANYE WEST (feat. CHANCE THE RAPPER, KIRK FRANKLIN, KELLY PRICE and THE-DREAM) – ULTRALIGHT BEAM
  • CHANCE THE RAPPER (feat. 2 CHAINZ and LIL WAYNE) – NO PROBLEM
  • DRAKE (feat. WIZKID and KYLA REID) – ONE DANCE

THE WINNER:

  • CHANCE THE RAPPER (feat. 2 CHAINZ and LIL WAYNE) – NO PROBLEM

Chance the Rapper cemented himself this year as music’s hottest free agent and if this song is anything to go by, he doesn’t see that changing for a long time. Flexing about being independent, he aptly calls on the Collegrove duo who have both had label issues in the past. Both Wayne and 2 Chainz delivered probably their best verses of the year which only helped this become such a behemoth of a song. Seeing out huge tracks from the likes of Drake, Kanye West and ScHoolboy Q, Chance went from the next big thing to an indisputable megastar this year. Long may it continue.

SIDENOTE:

While it has been a good year for rap music, we have had our fair share of trash too… Here’s the Worst Track of the Year award too:

THE SHORTLIST:

  • ZAY HILFIGERRR & ZAYION McCALL – JUJU ON THAT BEAT (TZ ANTHEM)
  • G-EAZY – ME, MYSELF AND I
  • MACKLEMORE AND RYAN LEWIS (feat. ANDERSON .PAAK AND IDRIS ELBA) – DANCE OFF
  • LIL YACHTY – ALL TIMES
  • MACHINE GUN KELLY – BAD THINGS

 

THE WINNER:

While I don’t recommend any of these songs, I don’t know if I’ve ever hated a song as much as this. I actually like everyone involved in this, Macklemore is usually pretty inoffensive, Anderson .Paak had a great year and you can’t hate Idris Elba. Somehow, though, this is a totally detestable abomination of a song. The concept of it is terrible, the lyrics are cringeworthy and the instrumental sounds unforgivably like some sort of 80’s synth rock impersonation.  I said my piece about the video before and I feel pretty much the same way about the song. Horrible.

The Boom Bap and Acid Rap 2016 Year End Awards, Pt 4

LYRICIST OF THE YEAR:

THE SHORTLIST:

  • J COLE – FOLDIN CLOTHES
  • CHANCE THE RAPPER – ULTRALIGHT BEAM
  • DANNY BROWN – DOWNWARD SPIRAL
  • KENDRICK LAMAR – THAT PART (BLACK HIPPY REMIX)
  • JAY Z – I GOT THE KEYS
  • JAY ELECTRONICA – HOW GREAT

 

THE WINNER:

kendrick-lamar

Even if Kendrick Lamar didn’t release untitled unmastered or any of his guest verses apart from the one on the Black Hippy remix of THat Part, we’d probably still be looking at him as lyricist of the year. Lamar’s dexterity with words has been common knowledge since his arrival on the scene, however he surprised even his most ardent fans with the complex rhyme patterns and content in that verse. To put it context, in just 24 bars, he fits 87 rhymes and they all make sense. He addresses the fact that despite the fact he was a straight-A student, he was still denied higher education because he was a black kid from the ghetto, among many other topics, including a callback to a Jay Z deep-cut we all forgot about. In about 45 seconds, Kendrick did what many rappers struggle to do in a lifetime – be real.

 

SIDENOTE:

The worst lyricist of the year is nearly impossible to crown so I decided to choose the worst lyric of the year instead. It could’ve easily gone to Drake for “Got so many chains, they call me Chaining Tatum (they do, they do)”. For a start, no they don’t. And also, wow, that is hilariously lazy. However this highly prestigious award goes to Kanye West. On The Life of Pablo, there are a few lines that could’ve taken it. The infamous Go-Pro lyric, the open fridge line, the bleached a****** line…But the winner has to be from Father Stretch My Hands Pt.1, when the GOOD Music mogul said “Now if I f*** this model/And she just bleached her a******/And I get bleach on my T-shirt/I’mma feel like an a******”. Just an ignorant and stupid line from an otherwise good song.