On “Humble”, Kendrick Lamar sends out a challenge to listeners and other emcees to sit down, listen to his lyrics - and be humble. The single was released with a music video directed by Dave Meyers and The Little Homies on Thursday (March 30th). It invokes religious themes through Kendrick’s re-enactment of Leonardo Da Vinci’s timeless painting “The Last Supper”, and is rumoured to have sent out a wave of disses towards the likes of Big Sean in its lyrical content.
The beat was produced by Mike WiLL Made-It. Mike Will is best known for producing tracks such as “Black Beatles” by Rae Sremmurd, "Mercy" by GOOD Music and "Formation" by Beyoncé. In “Humble” he layers a minimalist piano riff on top of a pounding 808 bass line. The overall production sounds more like one of Kendrick’s “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” tracks than his more jazz-influenced work on projects such as “To Pimp a Butterfly”.
The release comes a week after the Compton born singer released his previous single, “The Heart Part 4”, and it comes a week before his upcoming album is rumoured to be released.
The opening scenes of the video destroy any attempts at modesty that the song’s title “Humble”, might illicit. We see Kendrick standing in a chamber dressed as the Pope, before he lounges comfortably in a sea of money - surrounded by a plethora of scantily clad female accountants. Far from a conciliatory self-reminder to keep one’s feet on the ground - this video is an attack against Kendrick’s competition. With it, he has said : “Sit down. Be Humble.” King Kendrick has returned.
Lamar’s lyrics and imagery continue to play off the religious connotations that have been a consistent theme in his work since 2009. In the video he invokes themes of the last supper and priesthood in a complex interweaving of wordplay and imagery.
He also manages to offer a feminist defence during the song when he criticises Photoshop, stating: “show me something natural like afro on Richard Pryor / Show me something natural like ass with some stretchmarks.”
All over the internet, fans have alleged that Lamar directly insults Big Sean on the track. Last week in his “The Heart Part 4” single, the Compton rapper said: ”My fans can't wait for me to son your punk ass / And crush your whole lil shit / I'll Big Pun your punk ass you a scared lil bitch.” It has been argued that those lines were direct shots against Big Sean (who was also accused of taking shots at Kendrick in his song “No More Interviews”). On “Humble”, speculation has continued to flair.
On the track, Kendrick repeatedly steals Big Sean’s “lil bitch” ad-lib throughout the chorus. The opening verse of “Humble” includes the lines: “My left stroke just went viral/Right stroke put lil' baby in a spiral.” Of course, many people believe the “left stroke” was “The Heart Part 4,” and the right was “Humble,” which confirms Kendrick is going after the same rapper in both songs.
Even the religious imagery on the track can be interpreted as a response to OVO’s “6 God” Drake. Kendrick calls himself the “best rapper alive” and in “The Heart Part 4” said “tell ‘em that God comin’”.
The track has opened to great reception. Within its first 24 hours on YouTube, “Humble” had generated over 5 million views on the platform. “Humble” is presumed to be the first single from his upcoming fourth studio album. The album - still without a title - is expected to be released on April 7th.
Watch Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” here:
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