As the opportunity to exaggerate our best features and highlight only portions of our lives grows thanks to the magic of Instagram filters and Twitter posts, Kendrick Lamar has noticed what apparently many have yet to: The world — his generation, at least — is shifting away from practicing humility and authenticity. Blowhard fakes are flourishing faster than a showoff can say “Clarendon” or “Send tweet.”
On Thursday (March 30), Lamar released “Humble,” which may or may not be a track on a potential project that could arrive April 7 (Lamar teased the date in his previous offering “The Heart Part 4“). Its lyrics and companion video, directed by Dave Myers and The Little Homies, both set their aim on just how removed from reality society has become.
“I remember syrup sandwiches and crime allowances,” Lamar opens on the Mike Will Made It-produced track. “Finesse a n—a with some counterfeits / But now I’m countin’ this.” Initially dressed like the Pope in a cassock, the scene immediately jumps to Lamar in all black lying on a table of money, ignorantly shooting loads of green from a cash cannon. First, he’s an unassuming man of the church, then an ostentatious braggart, setting the tone for a clip that features its subjects at their “best” and “worst.”
Next, there’s a reenactment of Leonardo da Vinci’s 15th-century painting, The Last Supper. Lamar boldly sits in Jesus’ chair as his disciples unappreciatively gorge on wine and bread. Lamar has to chide the homie to his left to stop acting a fool and respect the table at one point.
But the more literal and accessible visual is when the Compton MC raps “I’m so f–kin’ sick and tired of the Photoshop.” Just then a woman in full makeup is shown on the right side of a split-screen. When she crosses over to the left, her smooth ponytail is undone and the light acne that the foundation and blush hid are visible. “Show me somethin’ natural like afro on Richard Pryor/ Show me somethin’ natural like a– with some stretch marks,” he adds, before mentioning that such things certainly won’t stop him from bedding a woman. “Still will take you down right on your mama’s couch in Polo socks.” The screen then focuses on a shot of a woman’s behind, unedited and showcasing cellulite and stretch marks.
Later, Lamar spits, “I don’t fabricate it / Most of y’all be fakin’ / I stay modest ’bout it / She elaborate it / This that Grey Poupon, that Evian, that TED Talk / Watch my soul speak / You let the meds talk.” It’s a not at all subtle jab at the bevy of cough syrup-drinking, pill-popping rappers who rhyme about their supposedly awesome lives from the bottom of a Styrofoam cup. In the video, he hilariously says this while spreading mustard on a slice of bread in the back of a chauffeured convertible.
The entire “Humble” video is a poignant exercise in irony and is also filled with messaging that could be perceived as anti-conformist. It’s unclear if scenes where Lamar and his corn-rowed head is the only one with hair in a sea of bald Blacks or the closing shot of him being the only man wearing white at what’s possibly a funeral are jarring images that could have deeper meanings, or if they’re just interesting shots Meyers thought would be cool to use. (A rep for Meyers did not immediately respond to Billboard‘s request for comment.)
Same goes for Lamar taking golf swings on the roof of a jalopy and the part where he’s surrounded by black-shirted peers whose heads are wrapped in kerosene-soaked rope then set ablaze while Lamar (in a white hoodie) is the only one with his face revealed — flames cooking his scalp.
By virtue of making the song, one with a simple “Sit down/ Be humble” hook, listeners can champion the idea of Kendrick being one of the meek, who in The Bible’s Matthew 5:5 says “shall inherit the earth.” Those who follow him on social media know he’s not much of a tweeter or Instagrammer — as of press time, he’s deleted all of his IG photos. And for every lyric he has about earning his fortune, there’s usually sure to be one about the evils that wealth — and shameless attempts to get it — brings. His raps are filterless; he tells it like it is. So it’s no surprise that this dynamic video is essentially what Lamar is as an artist: balanced with a clear message.