Recently, Kendrick Lamar dropped the first track for his latest LP (which is set to be released imminently). For years, he has been building a reputation as one of the most daring contemporary artists, creating incredibly popular music which strives to actually deliver a message to its listeners. For many, this may have reached its apex with 2015’s To Pimp a Butterfly, an effort which seen Kendrick relentlessly tackle the problems of black people in the US. ‘King Kunta’, in particular, is one track from this album which delivers an interesting (and very catchy) opinion on how even black people with wealth in the States are still treated in a derogatory manner.
‘Humble’ seems continue this unwillingness to toe the line, delivering yet more views which will provoke an unsavoury response from his detractors. This, above all else, relates to the biblical references in the video for this song. Despite being a deeply religious man himself, Kendrick utilises religious iconography to satirise the way in which some successful rappers tend to behave, appearing as the pope at the beginning and then recreating the last supper later in the video in order to send-up such delusions of grandeur. Both of these features immediately made me think of Kanye West, a man who likes to compare himself to god due to the praise and wealth he has received during his time as a musician. As such, these laugh-out-loud features of the video reveal an acerbic wit which Kendrick is not afraid to use in order to hold seemingly untouchable people to account.
As well as this satirical element, Kendrick also aims to promote the idea of humility through this track, something which he believes the bible has taught him to practice. This attitude therefore informs other parts of the song such as a section which expresses his desire to stay in touch with his roots:
“Ayy, I remember syrup sandwiches and crime allowances”
I believe that this is also him attempting to remind others to retain such an attitude by encouraging them to realise that they are not free of racism when they become wealthy (a reference to the aforementioned ‘King Kunta’) and that they should also retain an interest in helping others who are less fortunate.
There is also some commentary regarding what he perceives to be the whitewashing of Black Culture:
“I’m so fuckin’ sick and tired of the Photoshop
Show me somethin’ natural like afro on Richard Pryor
Show me somethin’ natural like ass with some stretch marks”
This particular part struck me as very important, with the recent release of Get Out also attempting to tackle the belief that some races, unequivocally, have better features than others. Instead, Kendrick seeks to celebrate such traits as he feels that they are not savoured anywhere near as much as they should be.
Unlike me, a lot of people do not have the time to deconstruct everything they listen to, opting for music with a good beat to get them through their day. Luckily, this is one of those songs which you can listen to over and over again without having to pay much attention to the lyrics (although I am pretty certain the artist would want you to at least try). Just like ‘M.A.A.D. City’ (from Kendrick’s previous album Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City), Humble’s instrumental element has the potential to make it a dance-floor essential this summer, with the accompanying drum and piano tune likely to elicit the same reaction that ‘M.A.A.D. City’ receives whenever it is played in a club.
All in all, this track reflects an unwillingness on Kendrick’s part to play the game, shunning the relatively safe lyrics of other successful artists in favour of something which is provocative and worthwhile. This release, therefore, has me looking forward to the new album as well as the possibility that more artists will try to emulate this sort of rebelliousness in their own work due to the success this LP will inevitably receive.