Sitting down and being “Humble”: thoughts on Kendrick Lamar’s career progression

“Y’all got until April 7th to get y’all sh*t together.”

I’ve been sitting with “Humble” for about a week now. For some reason this question kept coming to mind: Why do rappers lose a step? Realizing the reasons are myriad and seeing as how I’m never there to get firsthand insight, I look for the common denominator among ones I feel have; success is the most readily understood. It’s either the function of a destination to be reached or the catalyst for a process. Virality balancing against legacy. If success is a singularly fixed point at the top inherent with tours, studio time and fame, the process can become a labor of creating inspiration and finding balance.

On “Humble,” the first single from Kendrick Lamar‘s album, the view has changed. “Humble” is “Poe Man’s Dreams” realized. Splitting a bill with your last dollar and getting texts from Obama covers some ground. The needle moves a little bit from being 23 with morals to making statements like “nobody pray for me, if you’re not there for me.”

Balance matters a lot to Kendrick. “Humble” feels like a counterweight in equal measure against the degree to which To Pimp A Butterfly (and the outlier sessions complied in untitled unmastered) was a jazz translation of Kendrick’s creative repertoire. Mike Will goes ham on the…Casio?? It’s not Terrace Martin finding chord progressions anyways. It still bangs in a way. In the video the excesses of the savior complex narrative that has been built up around him are on display, almost mockingly so.

There’s a lot of fanfare in hopes that rap beefs might be deaded, or spurred along. When you consider the context of Kendrick’s prior work and the momentum he’s built up to present, alongside the current landscape in rap, “Humble” seems to ask that we all chill out for a second. Going viral is all the rage, but building a legacy is the real sustenance. They aren’t dichotomies necessarily, but they each hold a place that perhaps too often gets blurred. The right stroke puts a baby in the spiral. I think Kendrick is primed to take another leap ahead in his career, legacy and discography. The album is supposedly dropping tomorrow, 04/07.

I’ve got my shit together.