04/12/2017 by Julia van der Doesch
“Humble” (stylized as “HUMBLE.”) is a song by American hip hop recording artist Kendrick Lamar. It was released on March 30, 2017 by Top Dawg Entertainment, Aftermath and Interscope. The song, produced by Mike Will Made It and Pluss, was serviced to rhythmic contemporary radio as the lead single from Lamar’s forthcoming album, DAMN., on April 14, 2017. The single debuted at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100.
On the day of its release Pitchfork named it Best New Track noting the “Humble” is a “hard-nosed G check of his lessers, that pivots into imperfect critiques of beauty standards”. NPR’s Andrew Flanagan thought, “the song, less exploration of contrition on the part of Lamar than an instruction to his peers, picks up a thread NPR Music first examined following that album teaser: how the “best rapper alive” might explore the theme of God, religion and personal growth.” For Alex Young of Consequence of Sound, “it’s got all the ingredients of a proper lead single: a Mike WiLL Made It-produced beat built on piano and 808 bass, a chorus you can spit along to (“Sit down/ Be humble”), and shoutouts to grey poupon and the former president.” Writing for The Guardian, Harriet Gibson opined the song “is sparse and rigid, beginning with the crunching swipes of an electric guitar, and is lead by beats and sinister stabs of piano. It is a showcase for his authoritative lyricism and preacher-like message, while the instrumentation is far from the complex jazz and funk sounds of To Pimp a Butterfly… In fact, Humble has more in common with grime’s minimalism than it does the vintage stylings of his recent output.”
The song’s accompanying music video was released on March 30, 2017 on Kendrick Lamar’s Vevo account. The video was directed by Dave Meyers and The Little Homies. The video starts with Lamar dressed like the pope in a cassock, the scene then shows Lamar in all black lying on a table of money, “ignorantly” shooting loads of bills from a cash cannon. It also features a reenactment of Leonardo da Vinci’s 15th-century painting, the Last Supper. Lamar sits in Jesus’ chair as his disciples “unappreciatively” gorge on wine and bread. He is also seen teeing off on top of a car, passing mustard between cars mimicking a Grey Poupon commercial and at one point the top of his head is in flames. Fellow TDE rapper Jay Rock and producer Sounwave appear in the video alongside other TDE members. The lone Caucasian featured in the video is Ben Sutter, one of Lamar’s close friends who appeared regardless of his race.
Reviewing it, Billboard editor Brad Wete thought it “is a poignant exercise in irony and is also filled with messaging that could be perceived as anti-conformist.” He concluded saying “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.” Althea Legaspi of Rolling Stone described it as “richly symbolic.” For Harriet Gibson of The Guardian, “the brilliantly cinematic video, with its fish-eye lens and cartoonish stylising, recalls classic Hype Williams, and leads the viewer through these passages of assignation, fleshing out Lamar’s ideas.” Matt Miller of Esquire opined about the rapper’s videography, “in recent years, Kendrick Lamar has revived the music video as a powerful form of social commentary.