Kendrick Lamar’s latest single, Humble, sparked a massive discussion throughout Twitter last week.
The video received mixed reviews, in particularly about one clip of the video. In this clip, we as an audience see a model on a split screen, dancing with Kendrick. On one side, the model is seen wearing a full face of makeup, outfit on check, eyebrows on fleek, and hair slicked back, visibly stunning. The model then crosses over to the other side, now barefaced, natural curls out and wearing a simple white top, still visibly stunning.
Here, Kendrick raps the words: “I’m so fucking’ sick and tired of the Photoshop/Show me somethin’ natural like afro on Richard Pryor. Show me somethin’ natural like ass with some stretchmarks”
See, I understand what Kendrick was trying to do, but I felt his approach in encouraging and uplifting the natural movement was a little thoughtless and insensitive, especially through my eyes as a woman.
Understand that I have no major issue with the video. As an aspiring filmmaker, it is hard not to appreciate the level of creativity and hard work that had gone into producing Humble. Visually, it was pleasing. The beat was hard too. Lyric wise, however, it could have been better. There is no question that Lamar is a lyrical genius. His performance of Blacker the Berry at the Grammys in 2016 proved that. But the only thing this song proved is that men are still projecting their views of beauty standards onto women instead of really valuing and accepting us in however we choose to look.
The natural movement was introduced to empower women who wanted to look and dress in a way that they felt happy with and people respecting that. If a woman chooses to use Photoshop on her photos, that is fine. If a woman wants to wear full-face makeup whilst chilling indoors, that is acceptable too. Same way women deciding to wear 32’ Peruvian straight weave is okay too. However, if any woman prefers not to do any of the above, then again, that is completely fine. The issue I had with the lyrics was that Kendrick had scrabbled out the whole reasoning behind the movement. Female empowerment should not be centred on the male gaze but should be focused on giving women free agency to look as they please. By suggesting the model looks better in one state over the other, means he places a great value of her worth depending on which state he most desires.
This does not contribute positively to the movement at all, but in fact actually hinders its progress by maintaining this idea that women who wear makeup or use Photoshop or even choose to wear weave, are all doing so because they feel insecure about their appearance. Empowering women is not about focusing on the physicals. It goes way beyond that.
This male-centric view also adds weight to the argument that men sexually objectify women for their own gains. Even the term ‘natural’ itself could be misconstrued. He said he wants to see “natural like afro on Richard Pryor” but when the model crosses the split screen, she has loose curls. Personally, it would have made sense to include an actual model with “afro hair like Richard Pryor” to really address the issue that those with more kinkier curls are usually the target for slandering in society.
The model in the video is incredibly stunning; there is no question about that. But it forces me to raise the question, how ‘natural’ does Kendrick mean? Where does he draw the line? Would he appreciate a woman with acne scars all over her face? How about a woman with not-so-fleeky eyebrows, armpit hair and leg hair? Women with stretch marks all over her belly? Would he accept a woman who just wants to let her vagina hair grow freely or is this ‘natural’ state only acceptable for those whom he and society would deem attractive?
I recognise and appreciate Kendrick’s efforts to stay woke and be for the movement but he still needs to work a little harder on educating himself if he really wants to do right by the cause. This video really opened my eyes to see how far black rappers, who claim to be supporting black women, really go into putting their words in action.
The chorus in Humble overuses the word “bitch” for example. This point might seem like a reach like my male friend argued: “Mercy, the term has been colloquialized now. Using it is not that deep.” It is deep and just because it has been normalised, it does not make it right. As Marquita Marie Gammage said “terms like bitch and hoe have been adopted in all media forms where black women are represented. Representations of black women as bitches abound in contemporary popular culture, and presenting black women as bitches and hoes, is designed to defeminize and demonize them.”
As I said before, the Kendrick’s latest single was good, I just hope he learns from this and does better next time.