Between his headlining Coachella appearance and chart successes, Kendrick Lamar is having a great month. Billboard is reporting that lead single “Humble” debuted at No. 1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart and No. 2 on the Hot 100. The radio-friendly track is Lamar’s biggest solo debut on the Hot 100 charts and sets the stage for another high debut with the release of his new album DAMN., which is projected to exceed 450,000 in sales for its first week.
Though Kendrick Lamar remains one of music’s biggest and most celebrated figures, his significant commercial singles have been when he is paired with another artist. For instance, Kendrick’s feature on the powerhouse 2015 Taylor Swift hit “Bad Blood” garnered him a No. 1 on the Hot 100. He also recently hit the charts as part of Maroon 5’s song “Don’t Wanna Know” which peaked at No. 6 and A$AP Rocky’s 2013 top 10 single “F**kin Problems.”
Prior to releasing “Humble,” Kendrick Lamar dropped the first single “The Heart Part 4,” which some speculated contained subliminal shots at his contemporaries Big Sean and Drake in its second verse. The lyrics on “The Heart Part 4” were allegedly in response to recent songs by the two rappers that many believe were aimed at Kendrick.
Even the hint of a new hip-hop beef after the recent Remy Ma-Nicky Minaj kerfuffle sent the Twittersphere into a tizzy.
From the moment of its late March release, “Humble” has been one of Kendrick Lamar’s most polarizing singles. By using production from one of hip-hop’s most ubiquitous producers (“Black Beatles” hitmaker Mike WiLL Made-It), Kendrick essentially made a mainstream rap song that satirizes the genre and its most common visual tropes, such as photoshopped video vixens and excessive consumerism.
The lyrics focused on photoshop, and stretch marks, in particular, remain the most controversial aspect of “Humble” with people praising his candor and criticizing perceived misogyny in equal measures. For his part, Kendrick hasn’t offered up any clarification on the intent of the song. In fact, save for a few tweets here and there, he has kept a low profile in the weeks and months leading up to the release of his fourth studio album.
Kendrick Lamar’s new album, entitled DAMN. was met with universal acclaim upon its release on April 14th. Pitchfork reported prior to the release that veteran rockers U2 are listed as composers on the album. Canadian group BadBadNotGood are listed on the credits for the album, along with veteran hip-hop producers 9th Wonder and the Alchemist. Indie superstar James Blake also is a producer on DAMN.
Kendrick Lamar’s last album release, To Pimp a Butterfly…, was a critical success when it was released in 2015. The album was noted for its evocative and political lyrics, as well as top-notch musicianship from an array of leading artists including Thundercat, Bilal, and long-time collaborator Terrace Martin.
It was To Pimp a Butterfly… that positioned Kendrick as a leading voice in hip-hop, one who engaged with themes of racial strife, religion, and poverty in ways that were missing from the musical landscape. The album singles “i” and “Alright” were winners at the 58th Grammy Awards and the album was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.
Given the success of To Pimp a Butterfly, much is riding on Kendrick Lamar’s new album. With his triumphant return to the Billboard charts, not only is Kendrick positioning himself as one of hip-hop’s most acclaimed artists, but he is also giving superstars such as Drake commercial competition as well.
[Featured Image by Jack Plunkett/AP Images]