Kendrick Lamar Visualizes Divinity and Humility for "Humble"
By Jaylin Paschal
Collaborating with Dave Meyers,--who frequently worked with Missy Elliot on her iconic music videos--Kendrick released a visually stunning and dynamic video for his latest single, "Humble."
Kendrick takes on the task of simultaneously embodying and mocking the idea of a "Rap God." He assumes roles of power in iconic images of religion; a priest in a cathedral, the center of a Last Supper rendition. He dresses in all white and robes, in ornate rooms. Fisheyes and sharp camera angles position him at the center of the world. A scene of his cornrows ablaze bring to mind religious thoughts of hell, suffering and baptism by fire. He suggests by his lighthearted portrayal of a religious figure, that if there were a Rap God--it'd be him. Demanding all these other rappers reaching for the crown--or the halo--to be humble. And sit down. Blasphemous or iconic, he's asserting that he has no peers in the rap game. Only disciples.
He raps, "Who dat nigga thinkin' that he fronting' on man, man? Get the fuck off my stage, I'm the Sandman," referencing the Apollo theater's Amateur Night at which the "Sandman" would escort the mediocre off the stage. Kendrick wants rappers--perhaps specifically those who ad-lib "Oh god" at their own high school level rhymes or, perhaps those who call themselves the "6 Gods"--to recognize their true place in the hierarchy. Which is, of course, anywhere below his own.
And this idea of Kendrick's throne is not new to us--the listeners, fans, and critics. Paul Thompson wrote for Complex that "Kendrick is part of a small coterie of rappers that we’ve collectively identified as Important," and therefore the "Humble" video didn't seem farfetched. And according to the Twitter conversations which erupted from it, wasn't taken lightly.
However, the nonchalant attitude Kendrick holds throughout the video, which also includes scenes of him in a on top of a table of money, under a hairdresser in a salon and golfing atop of a car, implies that he really doesn't take this role seriously at all. After all, he's dressed as the Pope and leans back as if to shout as "My left stroke just went viralllll" blasts through our speakers. He went to the Last Supper in a hoodie for Christ's sake (pun intended). He's essentially using the video to laugh at the entire idea.
To end the visual, men surrounding the rapper similarly dressed in black suits clear the room (which is a grand foyer--think marble and chandeliers), leaving Kendrick--in all white--alone to look viewers in the eye.
In short, it's a damn good video.
Of course, this is not Kendrick's first time manipulating religion to make a point. Read my piece The New Testament: Kendrick Lamar, Gospel Artist for more.