After his explosive performance that opened the 2017 VMAs — where he literally set fire to everything in sight — it was only fitting that, at the end of the night, Kendrick Lamar would stand victorious, claiming the coveted Video of the Year award for his innovative, unmistakable “HUMBLE.” clip.
Onstage at the show’s conclusion, Kendrick began by thanking the fans and shouting out his two co-directors — Dave Free, the “visionary” president of Top Dawg Entertainment who Kendrick said he’s been “rocking with” since age 14, and storied video maker Dave Meyers, who Kendrick said him and Free have been “wanting to rock with” since age 14 — before ceding the mic directly to them. “Man, glory to God every time, you know what I’m saying? Giving us these amazing talents,” he said.
As for the “genius” Meyers (who’s helmed videos for artists as diverse as P!nk, Dave Matthews Band, Jay-Z, and David Guetta), Kendrick thanked him for the opportunity: “Thank you for allowing us to take our thoughts and our wild imaginations to the next level.”
“We got opportunity to inspire the youth ’cause we was inspired. Take time to give back to the youth ’cause the only thing that matters, for real,” Free added. Meyers called Kendrick a “mountaintop” of “tremendous artistry.”
Kendrick beat out Bruno Mars’ glitzy “24K Magic”; Alessia Cara’s celebratory “Scars to Your Beautiful”; DJ Khaled, Rihanna, and Bryson Tiller’s steamy “Wild Thoughts”; and The Weeknd’s lavish “Reminder” for the award.
The “HUMBLE.” video deploys novel cinematography and tricks like the “tiny-planet” effect as well as striking visuals like Kendrick rapping with his head consumed in flames.
The award is just the latest entry in a streak of successes for Kendrick, whose DAMN. album debuted at No. 1 in April. The album’s four released music videos form a cohesive artistic exploration of good versus evil, and the rapper also told MTV News recently that DAMN. can be played both forward and backward, playing up that same duality.
Kendrick said the same is true for the “HUMBLE.” video: “I think the initial idea was to go off one of my favorite words, actually: contradiction,” he said. “Everything is symbolism based off contradiction. When you listen to the actual lyrics and you see the visuals behind it, you know, they fight against each other.”