In 2014, Kendrick Lamar rapped :
This was aimed squarely at other rappers- including Drake, Meek Mills and J Cole. He has done just that while keeping mum about his thoughts on his success, rather focussing on the socio-political and cultural consciousness that the Compton native has become synonymous for. His shots have been subtle and clever, never on the nose. Think his shot on King Kunta, aimed at Drake using ghostwriters. That clever wordplay formed the backbone of last week’s The Heart Part 4. In HUMBLE. Kendrick likes to think of himself the “Rap Pope” or Rhyme Saviour. He wants others to be humbled by his words. And quite rightly so!
I covered a lot about rap beef on my piece on The Heart Part 4 so I’ll go into that a bit later on. I have shown my close friends the single and then the video, I have also watched a fair amount of Youtube reaction videos where Youtuber’s react to the track and the accompanying video. I am yet to see someone not start bobbing their heads and smiling as soon as the beat drops and Kendrick starts rapping. This is not too common with a Kendrick song,quite often his music goes over the head of the listener due to his conscious rapping and jazz-funk production – the obvious exception being King Kunta. I love everything He has put out but we need more bangers from KDot, this being a big one. I can see myself driving with this playing, I can see myself in the club getting down to this, I can see myself chilling with friends with this playing.
Mike WiLL Made-It served as producer on HUMBLE. – I was not surprised when I read it was his production, his album Ransom 2 goes hard. Kendrick insists his rivals check themselves, He references Grey Poupon(the video even contains a re-enactment of the infamous Grey Poupon commercial) and He shares an insight to his thoughts on beauty – specifically natural beauty.
Courtesy of Vox, Youtube
In the song Kendrick raps :
This is not problematic in my opinion. If I understand correctly, a large part of the feminism movement centers around society’s Eurocentric beauty standards and the detrimental impact it has on womxn of colour who don’t fit into this box. I agree whole heartedly. I also understand that He is essentially “putting down” women who do use plastic surgery to get rid of insecurities they have over their appearance, I get it. Kendrick is saying that HE wants what HE wants. Never mind the fact that plastic surgery has set even more unobtainable “standards” for womxn to live up to.
He then goes on to say :
Here is where I agree with the feminist backlash to HUMBLE. . Kendrick is assuming that womxn are seeking male approval. This is problematic. Regardless of the backlash, I do believe that the lyrics come from a place of appreciating a woman’s natural self. And not a misogynistic attack on womxn.
The scene accompanying the above lyrics involves a fairly overlooked metaphorical opinion on the role of men and womxn in society. The scene contains two frames, as the womxn steps from frame right to left, She changes into a more “natural” look, while He steps left to right, He stays the same. This a widely believed metaphor on how society accepts men just as they are but expect womxn to conform to certain “standards”. I am by no means an expert on feminism however(Just to put that disclaimer in there).
As any hip hop fan would know, there is a very common practice of using ad-libs in songs. Migos use them, Kanye West uses them and so did 2Pac. It is however fairly uncommon for Kendrick to use them. He uses “ayy” throughout HUMBLE. – this aids it’s mainstream pop appeal. He doesn’t stop there though. Continuing his assault on Big Sean, he uses two of Sean’s most popular ad-libs – “Hol’ Up” and “Lil’ Bitch”. Do these look familiar? They should (see lyrics above again). KDot uses Sean’s own ad-libs to tell the Detroit rapper to “sit down” and “be humble”. Sean brought this upon himself with his Kendrick diss on No More Interviewz, not sure what Big was thinking when He decided to challenge a top 3 of all time candidate.
The music video is one of my favourite videos to come out in recent memory. Directed by David Myers, it features very broad themes including religion and pop culture. An example of this would be the opening shot of Kendrick dressed as the pope – referring to “Rhyme Saviour”. I will do a full post on the video shortly.
I had a long discussion with a good friend whose opinion I truly trust. We discussed the shots by Drake, Sean and Kendrick. We weighed up the pros and cons of each rapper. We eventually came to the conclusion that Drake has left himself open to take his first loss for More Life – A project that creates impassioned-indifference within myself.
Will Kendrick come after Drizzy in his next record? Will Drake respond (He has to say something!)? Does it even matter? Should the music industry be focussed on fighting the “good fight” against social injustice?