Album Review: Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers by Kendrick Lamar
Exceptionally Good, Based on 6 Critics
The Line of Best Fit - 100 Based on rating 10/10
His final release on Top Dawg Records, and his first in six years, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is a coherent double album that, of course, is the cherry on the cherry on the cherry of a career that's never found a low - he even managed to make U2 palatable on 2017's DAMN. Essentially, it's an assembling of Lamar's life, seemingly tying together his success with his childhood - and the various experiences in between - with the ferocity of a lengthy therapy session; from ego to daddy issues and becoming a father.
When Kendrick Lamar, one of this generation's most influential artists, dropped future Pulitzer Prize history-maker DAMN. some 1,800 days ago, the world was a much different place. We've since lived through the worldwide reaction to the murder of George Floyd, a pandemic and a barrage of other issues that have fractured society in numerous ways. On his (very) long-awaited double-disc follow-up album, Mr.
Kendrick Lamar opens Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers with a brutal confession. "I've been going through somethin'," he mutters on "United in Grief," the staccato piano chords soundtracking a descent into madness. It's a simple phrase, curt and concise, that begins to cut through all the intrigue surrounding his artistic disappearance.
With lyrics as erudite as ever, this remarkably detailed self-portrait offers a surprising glimpse behind the curtain – and should be applauded for its intimacy Several big albums since the mid-2010s have come with a tantalising tabloid backstory: Beyoncé's Lemonade was supposedly documenting her reaction to an affair, while Ariana Grande's thank u, next served as a commentary on her many celebrity relationships. Kendrick Lamar is very private by comparison, so the presence of his (ex?) partner Whitney Alford on Mr Morale & The Big Steppers offers a surprising glimpse behind the curtain. She recommends therapy on the intro to Father Time, and the album's concept hangs around Kendrick working through his feelings in an attempt to save his relationship with her.
My brain hurts a lot
Five years. Hip-hop's most illustrious artist absent. Five turbulent years. Tension, violence, riots. Insurrection. Disease. Turmoil.
Rap's most prophetic figure is but one person pushing through the market square, yet there persisted a childlike expectation in this ….
There's a growing tendency to over-analyse Kendrick Lamar. A recent much-mocked tweet puts it into perspective - the rapper's decision to stand slightly to one side in his latest video was taken to be a reference to the position of the human heart, and a metaphor for life itself. While we certainly don't endorse transforming every single detail of his work into extended theories on the nature of existence, this instinct pays testimony to the authored approach Kendrick takes - in his work, each aspect speaks to the other, and a song can turn on the tiniest of details.