Kendrick Lamar — Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers — Album Review
Hip-Hop | Rap
It is finally here; not only the most anticipated album of 2022, but perhaps the last four years! Kendrick Lamar has finally blessed fans with his fifth studio album; the first since 2017’s DAMN.
I kind of jinxed it when thinking that Kendrick Lamar deserved a break from releasing music, after pumping out either a studio album, B-side, or something different (such as 2018’s Black Panther soundtrack, for example). He fell into a deep and long soul-search soon after; one that resulted in fans itching for that next taste of Kendrick’s genius.
There was, however, a ray of hope that arrived in 2021, in the form of an album from a different artist, but one that was closely related to Kendrick. The Melodic Blue, an album by Baby Keem (Kendrick Lamar’s cousin), featured him quite heavily. And especially with that “new flows coming, be patient brother” line from the track “Family Ties”, fans were beginning to place bets on there finally being a brand new Kendrick Album in 2022.
For those who did place bets; congratulations! That long awaited new album is finally alive and kicking! Although, the teasing for Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers did come around quite suddenly. The first thing to be announced was the aforementioned title, closely followed by the fifth addition to The Heart series.
For those who are new to Kendrick, each of The Heart tracks serve the main focal purpose of letting us know that a new album from the rap artist is imminent. But in the case of “The Heart Part 5" especially, it stood alone as a truly incredible track; one with an amazing music video to boot!
It eventually became lyrically, a kind of all-rounder for the message that Kendrick would later hammer home on Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. And in typical Kendrick fashion, the layout of the album is another carefully thought out one. This album is moreso a double album; one with the earlier side being the “Big Steppers” side, and the later half being the “Mr. Morale” side. Bookmarked by three similar segments, it’s easy to see that the first half highlights the more toxic side of Kendricks feelings, and the latter more peaceful and marking his clarity.
The narrative in question is one that highlights Kendrick’s spiritual progression post DAMN, to who he is today, and of course, the focal theme of acceptance. Being one of the most spiritual albums in the rapper’s discography (which is really saying something), Kendrick gets this narrative across flawlessly well. It pretty much is acceptance; the album.
Stylistically, it felt incredibly refreshing that I didn’t feel the urge to compare this album to Kendrick’s third studio album To Pimp A Butterfly; an undeniable masterpiece. The bar that this album set was part of the reason why DAMN was ultimately not as well received, in my opinion, and also cause for concern prior to the release of the album I am reviewing today. Intentional or not, I feel that this perfectly ties with Kendrick’s feeling of caring for himself, and trying to let go of the saviour complex highlighted more negatively on DAMN.
And I’ve only really just covered the basics of the album itself; there’s tonnes more to unpack with all of the amazing tracks on this thing.
Most of these cover Kendrick’s journey to accepting who he is; just another person who can’t save everyone. Some other topics kendrick covers, however, are ties to his cousin Baby Keem, to returns the favour granted to his album by being featured heavily on this one. Along with this, we have songs like “Auntie Diaries”, which speaks about his aunties transition into a man, and Kendrick’s own homophobia now vanquished, or “Father Time”, about Kendrick’s relationship with his father, and toxic masculinity, told by Kendrick as “daddy issues” (because after all, they are one and the same). But in a nutshell, they all go back to that primary theme of acceptance.
Not only was the quality of the album well worth the wait, but it is amazing to see Kendrick where he is now from a spiritual standpoint. It definitely leaves me as a listener and as a fan, incredibly satisfied with the finished product; one that marks the artist’s true healing. Take notes people!
Favourite Tracks: N95 | Die Hard | Father Time | Auntie Diaries | Mirror
Least Favourite Track: Rich Spirit
Aftermath | Interscope Records | pgLang | Top Dawg Entertainment