Be Humble: When Staying Woke Requires Going to Sleep
Last week, Kendrick Lamar dropped "Humble." This after dropping "The Heart Part 4" the week before. Clearly someone has an album coming.
In "Humble", Kendrick raps:
"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"
Per usual, the timeline was up in arms debating the merits of the bar, its feminist particularities, and where to direct the drag - to Kendrick, or the people dragging him.
I saw the timeline before hearing the song or watching the video and was all ready to be up in arms too until I realized there really was nothing to be up in arms over. Some herald Kendrick as one of the only rappers that's doing the work of uplifting Black women - and while I'm not going to go that far, I do think that people who got bent out of shape about the bar were trippin, just a little bit.
On the one hand, people want rappers to be less misogynistic/patriarchal and on the other, folks are mad at them when their feminism doesn't take whatever form they might like. Sure, we can talk about colorism in the music industry, but this video wasn't an instance where that was an issue. We can talk about him saying 'bitch' every two seconds, but how mad can we be at Kendrick if we use the word ourselves? We can talk about the notion that he was still viewing women from a performative or consumptive stage, engaging with her for her beauty, or lamenting her lack of his desired form of beauty - and maybe that's a conversation worth having.
But, no matter the conversation we choose, we've got to stop and acknowledge that Kendrick Lamar rapping about appreciating stretch marks and a "natural" woman in 2017, the age of build-a-bodies and skinny tea, did something for women who have stretch marks, rock their curly hair, and may be fighting everyday to love the body they're in. That matters. That's important. And I personally just don't think it is or was as upsetting as everyone made it out to be.
Now, we can absolutely problematize the fact that the woman Kendrick picked to embody this bar didn't necessarily fit the bill in the hair department as hers was a bit too loose to be an afro like Richard Pryor. (Cuz, let's be real, Richard Pryor def had 4C hair). Pero like, he has women of all shapes and hues all up and through the video for "Humble" as well as videos for his other projects - so maybe we could give him a break?
All I'm saying is this, sometimes, like when the consensus is that there's really nothing to be upset over, staying woke requires going to sleep. Everything isn't the next feminist crisis. Everything isn't colorism coming to shade or exclude various groups. Everything sometimes, is just everything.
Catch the video below and let us know what you think.
Video: VEVO via Youtube