The first few seconds of Kendrick Lamar’s latest video obliterates any illusions of modesty that the song’s title, Humble, might suggest. Lamar stands in a vacant chamber dressed as the pope, bathed in divine light, before the camera cuts to a shot of the rapper lounging on a sea of cash surrounded by semi-naked female accountants. The video – instead of a reminder not to get carried away with one’s talents – is a clarion call to his competitors, a scattershot narrative informing fellow musicians that the god of modern hip-hop has returned.
His new song is sparse and rigid, beginning with the crunching swipes of an electric guitar, and is lead by beats and sinister stabs of piano. It is a showcase for his authoritative lyricism and preacher-like message, while the instrumentation is far from the complex jazz and funk sounds of To Pimp a Butterfly and its off-cut compilation record, Untitled Unmastered. In fact, Humble has more in common with grime’s minimalism than it does the vintage stylings of his recent output.