By Matthew Harron
Assistant A&E Editor
Kendrick Lamar’s highly anticipated album, “DAMN,” has fans and the entirety of the hip-hop community on the edge of their seats. Lamar’s reputation following his jazz-influenced masterpiece, “To Pimp a Butterfly,” is now one to notice—Lamar’s ability to re-kindle roots and foundations that typical artists would not dare to delve into was refreshing and exactly what the hip-hop industry needed.
Lamar’s latest single, “Humble” released March 31, points toward a much different feel than “TPAB.” Producer of “Humble,” Mike Will, composed a distinctive slate for Lamar to paint all over. Lamar’s range of musicianship is exhibited in “Humble.” Contrary to Lamar’s jazz-soul influenced work, “Humble” is woven with a menacing, yet nifty, chord structure that ties together the underlying trap-beat. More so, Humble portrays his diversity as an artist.
Lamar is able to seamlessly switch style and tone. His minimal choice of supporting instruments allows his lyrics to become the focus point.
“Wicked or weakness/ You gotta see this way (yeah, yeah!?/Nobody pray for me/It’s been that day for me/Way (yeah, yeah!)”
Lamar’s lyrics reinforce the imagery set in his music video for “Humble”—Lamar is illuminated upon a single light with robes over top of himself, perceiving himself as a religious figure. His lyrics throughout “Humble” challenge listeners to humble themselves off his transcendence; a bit far-fetched or even rude, but as listeners we must note Lamar’s experiences and superiority as an artist. Being able to identify and realize Lamar’s path as an artist is essential for this song.
Lines later in “Humble,” Lamar touches on how media affect women’s perception of themselves. Lamar wishes for a more natural state of humans, rather than the way we are constantly guided by social norms. “I’m so sick and tired of the Photoshop/Show me somethin’ natural like afro on Richard Pryor/Show me somethin’ like a** with some stretch marks.”
Lamar challenges women and media to defy norms that only appropriate women. He uses Richard Pryor, an African American comedian with an afro, to resemble a natural hair-style. Lamar is claiming that women are constricted to social expectations, like going to great lengths to naturalize themselves, but instead, should embrace their natural state.
Not only is Lamar promoting natural beauty, he is directing these lyrics toward African Americans who battle an emerging movement: Black is Beautiful.
Although “Humble” may contrast from familiar sounds of “TBAB,” Humble continues biblical references—a familiar theme from previous albums. In Lamar’s song “How Much A Dollar Cost” his lyrics reveal a message told to him by God.
“Have you ever opened up Exodus 14? /A humble man is all that we ever need.” Being humble is more than a state for Lamar, it is a lifestyle. Directed by Lamar’s choice of lyrics from Humble, Lamar’s newest album will carry-on religious overtones from previous albums.