The first few seconds of Kendrick Lamar’s latest video obliterates any illusions of modesty that the song’s title, Humble, might suggest. Lamar stands in a vacant chamber dressed as the pope, bathed in divine light, before the camera cuts to a shot of the rapper lounging on a sea of cash surrounded by semi-naked female accountants. The video – instead of a reminder not to get carried away with one’s talents – is a clarion call to his competitors, a scattershot narrative informing fellow musicians that the god of modern hip-hop has returned.
His new 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 and its off-cut compilation record, Untitled Unmastered. In fact, Humble has more in common with grime’s minimalism than it does the vintage stylings of his recent output.
Lamar’s lyrics are often seeped in religious connotations; his Christian beliefs and search for redemption has been a common thread in his music since his 2009 song Faith, on which he describes losing focus at a Sunday service. This time, the vivid imagery in Humble is a self-aggrandising spin on his relationship with God. The video, directed by Dave Meyers and the Little Homies, makes up for the music’s starkness: it is full of evocative visuals in which he plays golf, sits in a hair salon and takes the centre seat at the Last Supper, surrounded by parodies of familiar-looking rappers as he instructs them to “sit down and be humble”. There’s space for Lamar’s (debatable) feminist streak in the track, too. He denounces Photoshop and demands: “Show me something natural like afro on Richard Pryor / Show me something natural like ass with some stretchmarks.”
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. It breathes life into a song that would hardly be considered his greatest creation, but neatly lays out a mood of intent. Based on Humble and last week’s track The Heart Part 4 alone, his forthcoming LP will be less a complex concept album and more a document of Lamar’s status as a superstar. These tracks may not sound as seminal as the music which came from his To Pimp A Butterfly period – but we’ll have to wait until 7 April to find out for sure.
By Harriet Gibsone | Source: theguardian.com