‘My Humps’ by The Black Eyed Peas – A Reappraisal

There are moments that define us all.  Events that are so momentous, they change the course of human history.  These things act as signposts in our lives and, once they occur, we can never go back.  They are proof that, as a species, we are continuing to evolve, even when ‘Married At First Sight’ provides such persuasive evidence to the contrary.  The moon landing. The day Nelson Mandela walked free from Victor Verster Prison.  Every movie ever made featuring The Muppets.  

We often choose to interpret historic events personally.  It’s just the way human beings process things that are otherwise beyond comprehension.  Often, it’s by what we were doing when we learned a certain thing has happened.  ‘Where were you when?’ is a small step towards understanding the unfathomable.  It applies equally to the traumatic as it does to the beautiful.  It even applies to songs.  And now that enough time has passed and we have, collectively, gathered our senses, I believe it’s time to ask: what were you doing when The Black Eyed Peas released ‘My Humps’?

For those unfamiliar with ‘My Humps’, I think I can speak for everyone who has when I say: I envy you. However it is that you managed to avoid being exposed to this most ubiquitous of ear worms, keep doing it; even if it means never leaving the house or turning on a television again. Stay golden.  Because once heard, it cannot be unheard.  It is a song that can never be forgotten; which is both part of its charm and its unique evil genius. 

‘My Humps’ is a song. It goes for about four minutes but, if I’m being honest, it feels like much longer.  In fact, it feels like it took less time to get through High School than it does to listen to ‘My Humps’ from start to finish.  It’s an ordeal.  Like running a marathon or walking across a desert or watching ‘The Real Housewives of Anywhere’, it’s something you’ll come to regret. Quickly.

Its starts with what can only be described as a ‘sassy, hip hop beat’.  As rhythms go, this one is intoxicating.  As a rapper myself, there’s nothing I appreciate more than a great beat.  Then comes the question: ‘What you gonna do with all that junk, all that junk inside your trunk?’ For those of you envisaging old newspapers in the back of a Ford Focus, think again.  The trunk in question is a reference to what might be politely described as someone’s ‘trouser hams’ and ‘junk’ is a reference to the dimensions of said hams.  

Every question deserves an answer and in this case, the answer is ‘I’m gonna get you drunk, get you love drunk off my hump.’  To drive the point home, the term ‘my hump’ is then repeated eight times in a row without so much as a commercial break to avoid monotony.  For those of you who are perplexed by so strange a mantra, the ‘hump’ in question does not belong to a camel (although it would make for an awesome video if it did) but the singer.  It is, in fact, a reference to the physical human form and its intoxicating effect on others.  

The verse begins.  It is, in many respects, an expansion on the previous answer.  The singer describes her treatment by male suitors and their willingness to spend money in a bid to secure her attention. Suddenly, it becomes clear that this arrangement is not as spontaneous as it first appears but a condition precedent.  The point is made with absolute precision when the singer croons that they can ‘keep on dating’ if her suitor keeps on ‘demonstrating’.  Now I love economics as much as the next person, and it’s great to the principles of supply and demand included in a pop song, but I’m not sure what John Maynard Keynes would make of it.  As it turns out, the currency for affection is ‘my humps’ which, if I’m being honest, is probably a more reliable than crypto-currency. 

The rapper who posed the original question is probably regretting having opened his mouth at this point.  He laments the amount of money he’s spending, effectively complaining that he is subject to a form of economic duress.  The singer proves unsympathetic, making it clear that any action that goes beyond the scope of their unspoken agreement will result in ‘drama’.  She then adds ‘you don’t want no drama’. No, I certainly don’t.

The whole thing wraps up with about another thousand references to ‘my humps’, after which the listener will need to detoxify their ears if they ever wish to see another day during which the words ‘my humps’ doesn’t leap into their mind.  

In some respects, ‘My Humps’ is a song of empowerment and sound financial management.  In every other respect, however, it’s an earworm that can only be removed with the help of an exorcist.  Some twenty years later, I think of it often.  It’s partly a testament to the enduring power of the song and partly because I hear it regularly after Monaco adopted it as their National Anthem in 2012.  In retrospect, ‘My Humps’ perfectly described a particular mindset at a point in time.  It did so perfectly. And as much as I respect its genius, I’d very much like to never hear it again.  You best avoid playing it.  Because, after all, you don’t want no drama.