When Kendrick Lamar dropped “Humble” with its accompanying visuals, he left us all shook. The single is sharp and poignant, as is characteristic of the rapper’s signature style. Fortunately for us, it's only a snippet of what was to come. We now have
K. Dot’s third studio album, and the full body of work is basically rap’s DAMN., Lemonade. Yes, it’s that good.
One of the major conversations sparked by the release of “Humble” surrounded
Kendrick’s commentary on women using Photoshop. What was most likely intended to be uplifting came off as backhanded judgement to some of us. It’s a theme that often permeates projects dedicated to Black empowerment without an equally solid grasp on gender. For many Black women, this shortcoming didn’t condemn Kendrick’s entire discography. Despite my critique, I paid $9.99 for DAMN. just like everybody else, helping the album debut at No. 1 on the charts.
My outlook on men like Kendrick is complicated and sometimes hypocritical, just like his views on women. To prove this, I went through the album line by line to see what else the rapper has to say about women. The gist of it is this: Kendrick has an amazing grasp on the complexity of women as mothers, romantic partners, daughters, friends, and nieces. It’s the women who fall outside of those familial ties who are often subject to Kendrick’s flatter musings.
Kendrick tells a story about trying to help a blind woman who appears to have lost something. However, when he approaches her to offer assistance, she reveals that he’s the one who has lost something: his life.
Photo: Kristina Bumphrey/StarPix/REX/Shutterstock. More
“This is Paula’s oldest son.”
Kendrick is the oldest son of his mother, Paula.
Photo: MediaPunch/REX/Shutterstock. More
“My mama told me that I'ma work myself to death / My girl told me don't let these hoes get in my head”
His mom is obviously concerned about his mental and spiritual health. His girl, who we can assume is his fiancée, is concerned about him staying focused on their relationship. And apparently said “hoes” are trying to get into said head.
“My latest muse is my niece, she worth livin' / See me on the TV and scream: ‘That's Uncle Kendrick!’ / Yeah, that's the business”
As someone who also has a niece for a muse, I can relate.
“I know he walks the Earth / But it's money to get, bitches to hit, yah”
Despite a keen personal awareness that God walks among us, Kendrick is also called by temptations of the flesh, which include, of course, women.
Photo: Chelsea Lauren/REX/Shutterstock. More
“I been stomped out in front of my mama / My daddy commissary made it to commas / Bitch, all my grandmas dead / So ain't nobody prayin' for me, I'm on your head, ayy”
Kendrick’s mom has unfortunately seen him beat up, and may both of his grandmothers rest in peace.
"Auntie on my telegram, like, 'Be cautious!'"
My aunt literally says the say thing to me about living in New York.
“Seven figures, hoe, that slimmer than my bitch figure, ayy”
We can safely assume that Kendrick’s girl wears at least a size 8.
Photo: Richard Isaac/REX/Shutterstock. More
“Feel like my daughter compromised and jaded.”
K. Dot doesn’t have a daughter. However, according to an interview with
XXL magazine, imaging his hypothetical girl-child seems to be his most strenuous workout in both cynicism and acceptance. Interesting. Photo: MediaPunch/REX/Shutterstock. More
“Girl, you look so good, it's to die for (die for) / Ooh, that pussy good, it's to die for (on fire).”
Well thanks, Kendrick.
He also poses the question:
“Who you loyal to?” Photo: Kristina Bumphrey/Starpix/REX/Shutterstock. More
This is the only song on the album where Kendrick doesn't mention women at all.
Photo: Broadimage/REX/Shutterstock. More
“Girl, I can buy yo' ass the world with my paystub / Ooh, that pussy good, won't you sit it on my taste bloods?”
An interesting pairing of lyrics, given that Kendrick does not seem to be a fan of women actually wanting him to buy them the world. But yay cunnilingus!
“I'm so fuckin' sick and tired of the Photoshop / Show me somethin' natural like afro on Richard Pryor / Show me somethin' natural like ass with some stretch marks / Still will take you down right on your mama's couch in Polo socks, ayy”
already know what’s happening here. Photo: Danny Payne/REX/Shutterstock. More
“I just need you to want me / Am I askin' too much? / Let me put the head in / Ooh, I don't want more than that / Girl, I respect the cat / I promise just a touch / Let me put the head in / If it's okay / She said, ‘It's okay.’”
Kendrick is illustrating how powerful the need to be desired can be for men. In this story, he’s begging for her physical affection, asking if he can just put the head (of his penis) in. It’s never just the head, though. I know it. Kendrick knows it. We all know it.
“Wake up in the mornin' / Thinkin' 'bout money, kick your feet up / Hop in the shower, put on your makeup, lace your weave up / Touch on yourself, call up your n---a, tell him he ain't shit / Credit card scam, get you a Visa, make him pay your rent / Hop on the 'Gram, flex on the bitches that be hatin' on you / Pop you a pill, call up your bitches, have 'em waitin' on you / Go to the club, have you some fun, make that ass bounce / It's whatever, just make it count”
Is it just me or does this sound exactly like the kind of day Joanne the Scammer would have? I wonder if Kendrick knows her.
Photo: Guy Bell/REX/Shutterstock. More
This entire track is an ode to the woman Kendrick presumably loves — probably his fiancée, Whitney Alford. It includes refrains like “
You're a homie for life, let's get it” and “Bad attitude from yo' nanny / Curves and your hips from yo' mammy.” Photo: REX/Shutterstock. More
“Let somebody touch my mama / Touch my sister, touch my woman / Touch my daddy, touch my niece / Touch my nephew, touch my brother.”
Kendrick is willing to kill for his family. That includes his mom, lover, niece, and sister.
Photo: Benjamin Lozovsky/BFA.com/REX/Shutterstock. More
“Them Jordans better not get dirty when I just bought 'em / Better not hear 'bout you humpin' on Keisha’s daughter / Better not hear you got caught up / I beat yo ass, you better not run to your father”
One source of Kendrick’s fear as a child was the stern hand of his parents, including his mother. She is firmly against Kendrick having sex with Keisha.
“I'll prolly die at these house parties, fuckin' with bitches / I'll prolly die from witnesses leavin' me falsed accused”
Another instance of Kendrick categorizing women as a fatal vice in his life. My attraction to any gender has never been this deep.
“Scared to go back to Section 8 with my mama stressin'”
Kendrick remembers the struggles that his mother faced trying to raise him and his siblings with little money, and is afraid to be back in that predicament.
“I read a case about Rihanna's accountant and wondered / How did the bad girl feel when she looked at them numbers? / The type of shit'll make me flip out / And just kill somethin', drill somethin' / Get ill and fill ratchets with a lil' somethin'”
Still revealing some of his most pressing fears, Kendrick empathizes with Rihanna — who sued her accountant in 2012 for mismanaging her funds. Clearly he supports the singer’s
revenge fantasy in her "BBHMM" video. Photo: Broadimage/REX/Shutterstock. More
“Don't judge me, my mama caught me with a strap / Don't judge me, I was young, fuckin' all the rats”
Paula really had her hands full wit this one. Oh, and
“rats” are also women. Photo: Jim Smeal/BEI/REX/Shutterstock. More
“Hard times, Momma on crack / A 4-year-old tellin' his nanny he needed her”
Kendrick narrates the childhood of his mentor and collaborator Top Dawg, which included an addicted parent and a nanny who stepped in.
“He came from the streets, the Robert Taylor Homes / Southside Projects, Chiraq, the Terror Dome / Drove to California with a woman on him and 500 dollars”
Kendrick is recounting how his parents traveled from Chicago to California, looking for a better life.
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