Kendrick Lamar – “HUMBLE.” (Singles Going Steady)

Typically for a Kendrick Lamar single, there's plenty to chew on here...

Mike Schiller: It’s the sign of a master at work that we can fully expect greatness and be blown away by what we get anyway. Even the title of Kendrick Lamar’s latest has layers, the period and all-caps type belying the the word itself. The contradictions within are just as stark; Kendrick is political, and he is sexual, he is confident, and he is angry, his braggadocio game is strong even as he preaches humility. It is intense, and it is immediate, spending a very non-To Pimp a Butterfly sub-three-minute runtime to get its message across. “This that Evian, that Grey Poupon, that TED Talk / Watch my soul speak, you let the meds talk,” he offers in a particularly inspired couplet, making us laugh before he viciously cuts us down to size. If he’s pulling this off in a tight three minutes, one can only imagine what he’ll be able to do with his next full album-length statement. [9/10]

Adriane Pontecorvo: Every time Kendrick Lamar releases a new track, an album, a video, anything at all, he goes all out. To call his writing clever seems like an understatement; his gift for twisting phrases and building with words continues to astound on “HUMBLE”, as does his sheer rapping talent. Visually, this is a stunning single, with layer upon layer of imagery, including literal fire, royalty and an allusion to da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Dizzying camera angles and shifts elevate each shot and keep the video centered on the artist himself, whose centered spirit shines through in the steady gaze he keeps focused on the camera. Kendrick Lamar is a Renaissance man, and here, his heart, soul, and mind are unified in confidence. If I were him, I’d have a hard time staying humble. [10/10]

Scott Zuppardo: Makes me long for the golden age of hip-hop, I don’t understand what the big deal is about this dude. Painfully average in my modest opinion. Mediocre production, sub-par lyrics, and a snore fest. The video is dope though. [4/10]

Chris Ingalls: Typically for a Kendrick Lamar single, there’s plenty to chew on here: the irresistible robotic beat driven by rigid piano riffs, a ton of great pop culture references, and a profane-rich urgency. And it all happens in a relatively brief period. Wonderful stuff if you like Kendrick but are on a time crunch. [8/10]

Paul Carr: The Compton rapper ‘s new single is a deceptively simplistic song built around baleful stabs of intense piano and the cavernous thud of shadowy beats. It has little in common with the more G-funk and jazz sounds of To Pimp a Butterfly and seems to have absorbed some of the dark, skeletal aesthetic of grime. It is by no means his finest work, but nor does it feel like he’s treading water. The lyrics themselves are far from humble as he takes self-aggrandizement to another level yet conversely tries to come across as a grounded. His anti-Photoshop rant and pleas for more natural depictions of women come across as a little empty and tin-eared, especially as they follow a line about his penis. Arguably, all his ‘message’ does is put down women who feel empowered, stronger and more self-confident by wearing makeup and styling their hair. Maybe his heart’s in the right place, but it comes across as just a little crass. [6/10]

John Garratt: In a genre where style far outweighs substance, naming your song “HUMBLE.” (yeah, note the capital letters and the freaking period) is nothing more than a guarantee that Kendrick Lamar will continue to be talked about. Whether or not ladies counting cash in their underwear will be taken into consideration when talking about the artistic stasis or our times is open-ended at best, but it’s clear that he just wants to be discussed. [4/10]

Steve Horowitz: Kendrick Lamar sure knows how to have fun, but making fun of rappers who boast by preaching humility reminds me of anti-pornographers who titillated their audiences with dirty pictures. Lamar speaks of making it real by continually pointing out the falsity of other rap idols and their material status. The truth is reality is in the ear of the beholder. The words flow well. Lamar’s delivery is smooth. He’s got more than a fair share of catchy lines. But hip hop itself has its roots in talking big. Bragging about being humble is self-limiting. [7/10]

SCORE: 6.86

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