Behind The Meaning of “Humble” By Kendrick Lamar

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

The opening record scratch to Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” will surely go down in hip-hop history as one of the most iconic openings ever. The motormouth lyrics he delivers throughout the track are similarly iconic with a chorus that is deeply anthemic.

With so much lyrical content in just three minutes, you might have missed the deeper meaning behind this track. Below, we’re analyzing “Humble” so that you can listen to his rap hit in a new light. Let’s get started.

Origins

“Humble” was produced by rap staple Mike WiLL Made-it. Featuring a deep piano riff and a bumping 808 bass line. The style was a departure from Lamar’s previous jazz-influenced project, To Pimp a Butterfly.

The song debuted at No.2 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, making it not only the highest charting song to date for Kendrick but also one of the highest-debuted hip-hop singles since Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie.” It later rose to No. 1, giving Lamar his first chart-topper.

Meaning Behind The Lyrics

With Lamar’s beat being so addictive on “Humble,” it’s easy to miss the strong message found within the lyrics. In this ironically braggadocious track, Lamar is equivocally looking at the mirror and telling himself to get his s*** together. In the verses, he puts down his competition and flexes his nouveau riche status. Elsewhere he boasts himself a lothario, who hits on women.

Ayy, I remember syrup sandwiches and crime allowances
Finesse a n**** with some counterfeits, but now I’m countin’ this
Parmesan where my accountant lives; in fact, I’m downin’ this
D’USSÉ with my boo bae tastes like Kool-Aid for the analysts

My left stroke just went viral
Right stroke put lil’ baby in a spiral
Soprano C, we like to keep it on a high note
It’s levels to it, you and I know

In the chorus, he takes a step back from bragging about his riches and his women and turns self-effacing. In an interview, Lamar said of the song, “Definitely. It’s the ego. When you look at the song titles on this album, these are all my emotions and all my self-expressions of who I am. That’s why I did a song like that, where I just don’t give a fuck, or I’m telling the listener, ‘You can’t fuck with me.’ But ultimately, I’m looking in the mirror.”

Bitch, be humble (hol’ up, b****)
Sit down (hol’ up, lil’, hol’ up, lil’ b****)
Be humble (hol’ up, b****)
Sit down (hol’ up, sit down, lil’, sit down, lil’ b****)

Music Video

The accompanying music for “Humble” highlights the song’s deeper message. Opening with Lamar under a divinely-sourced spotlight gives the video religious undertones, which are bolstered by a reenactment of The Last Supper later on. Elsewhere the video jumps around from scenes of the rapper rolling in money, taunting the cops, and hitting golf balls off the roof of his car.

Much like the song, his fearless approach to the video sparked a continued conversation around the track. Check it out below.

(Photo by Ollie Millington/Redferns)

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