When it comes to Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble,” it’s hard to imagine anyone other than the Compton rapper spazzing over the infectious piano-driven beat. But in case you didn’t know, the beat’s producer Mike WiLL Made-It originally made it with Gucci Mane in mind.
While some fans may have been taken aback by the seemingly left-field pairing between the West Coast MC and the Atlanta producer, Kendrick’s alliance with the man responsible for trap’s mainstream takeover resulted in three of the most urgent songs featured on DAMN. – “DNA,” “Humble” and the U2-featured “XXX.”
In an interview with NPR, Mike WiLL revealed that he had linked up with Kendrick years before DAMN., courtesy of Schoolboy Q, and that he had been sending beats to the Top Dawg rapper ever since good kid, m.A.A.d city.
“Every time he’d come to Atlanta, he’d hit my phone,” the producer revealed. “Or when I’d come to L.A., I would always link up with him. I gave him a bunch of beats for good kid, m.A.A.d city and I gave him a bunch of beats for To Pimp a Butterfly, but they definitely weren’t the right vibe.”
“At the time, I didn’t really know what he was working on. I was just giving him beats that I could hear him on. But right after To Pimp a Butterfly came out, we just caught a wave. And from there we just kept recording.”
When it came to creating “Humble,” Mike WiLL had actually produced the beat the year prior with Gucci Mane in mind, thinking it would be “something urgent that’s just going to take over the radio.” But the producer didn’t end up working with Guwop on the song and he decided to let Kendrick listen to the beat.
Mike WiLL: I was thinking, if Dot gets on this it’ll be his first time being heard on some[thing] like this. At the same time, it kind of has an NWA/Dr. Dre feel, an Eminem kind of feel. So I thought, let me see if Dot fuck with it. And he heard the beat and he liked it. But he was about to give me “HUMBLE.” for [my album] Ransom 2. I love that song so I was like, ‘Man, hell yeah.’ Then he told me that his team was saying he should keep it. And I told him, ‘Bruh, you definitely should keep it, and you should use it as your single.‘How Mike WiLL Made-It And Kendrick Lamar Created The Year’s Most Urgent Music | NPR
With the magic touch of one of the greatest hip hop producers of all time, “Humble” became an instant hit when it dropped March 30, 2017 as the lead single for DAMN. The song rocketed up to the top of the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Kendrick’s second number-one single on the US Billboard Hot 100 after his feature on Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” and his first as a lead artist.
“Humble” also swept the 60th Annual Grammy Awards, where it was nominated for Record of the Year, Best Rap Performance, Best Rap Song, and Best Music Video, winning in the last three categories.
“I knew “HUMBLE.” was urgent and I knew “DNA.” was urgent,” Mike WiLL explained to NPR. “The project is solid as fuck. Dot went hard on that shit. For him to choose those songs, the way he shot those videos, the way he titled the album, everything about it is just in your face. I love the whole project to be real with you. It’s dope to see people responding to the records that I produced, but it’s so many more jewels and gems on that project that I fuck with.”