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HUMBLE

by Kendrick Lamar

Despite similarly silly titular typography, this track and 'iSpy' are two hip-hop productions that are starkly contrasted in terms of their bass lines. On the one extreme, the bass in ‘HUMBLE’ (first heard at 0:07) adheres to mainstream mixing lore by being resolutely mono, thereby maximising the bass power whether the music emanates from two speakers or one — although at the expense of any sense of low-end ‘envelopment’ for the listener. At the other extreme, Kyle’s bass (which arrives at 1:04) is norm-defyingly stereo, pushing as much level into the mix’s Sides component as it does into the Middle. There’s no denying that the wide, immersive warmth of the timbre is certainly impressive, but the moment you pipe it through any distributed mono PA system you lose a good deal of bass weight, and the same mix damage will also occur on myriad in-car and home-theatre speaker setups which feature a single subwoofer.

In some music styles I could maybe conscience this kind of stunt simply for its sheer stereo wow-factor, but in hip-hop I honestly think ‘iSpy’ is a bridge too far, especially since Kyle’s bass track could have been summed to mono below, say, 80Hz to maintain more low-end weight without substantially reducing the effectiveness of the enfolding width impression.