Why Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” Has The Whole World Talking

by Quincy Cotton

Kendrick Lamar’s evolution from Compton’s most renowned street poet to world-famous rap deity has culminated in his latest single, “Humble.” This gritty, Mike Will Made-It produced jam is accompanied by legendary videographer Dave Meyer’s trademark high-concept camera work. Lamar’s hysterical boasting coupled with a return to a mainstream hip-hop sound are in stark contrast to his jazzy, politically fueled masterpiece To Pimp A Butterfly. However, his lines in regards to feminism and black women’s image in the song have raised more than a few eyebrows over the internet via his controversial call for black women to embrace their “natural” features like their hair and bare skin, as opposed to makeup and other cosmetics. While his message was indeed in good spirits, listeners don’t react based on an artist’s intent, but how that artist ultimately makes them feel. While trying to uplift one woman, who might decide she looks her best without any makeup and her natural hair, he at the same time puts down the woman who would beat her face, love herself the most in her weave and feel her absolute best behind an Instagram filter. Kendrick, who probably made this song with good intentions, missed the mark.

Kendrick is ultimately unaware of the undertones his subject matter conveys, and I feel as though there needs to be some light shed on some of the issues “Humble” has. Kendrick talks about what he wants black women to do, what they would have to do to appease him. In a genre that has historically catered to the black straight male archetype, that is ultimately irresponsible. Lamar insinuates that black women must in fact do what black women want in order to be accepted and loved by society, not what they think they should do. And it brings up the inconvenient truth behind the whole matter; whenever black women voice their qualms on an issue, black men will immediately invalidate their sentiments and ensure them they are taking the issue too far. And that is an even bigger problem. Black women like Kendrick Lamar. Black women like hip-hop music. And constructive criticism of art is not offensive. In fact, it shows that black women are in fact trying their best to like the Compton emcee, and tell him exactly how his message could be better conveyed.

Ultimately, Kendrick has every right to say what he wants to say, how he wants to say it. You can state your preference as much as you like, as long as you aren’t bashing somebody else’s. I personally prefer Pavement’s coffee to Starbucks, but you won’t catch me in Starbucks telling other people that they made the wrong choice with their money or time. And this piece isn’t to say Kendrick Lamar’s made a grave, career-ending mistake. Compton Kenny gon’ be alright. But making sure the people around him feel alright as well can never hurt.