Album Review – Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers

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Compton-bred rapper K-Dot bares his soul wide open with his eighth studio album.

Kendrick Lamar is back with a new double-sided LP which he hath christened Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers. It’s been five years since Lamar has written a full-length album and he’s been keeping up to date on the world’s current events.

Let me say this clearly: this isn’t an entertainment album, more so a therapy album. Lamar had a lot to get off of his chest besides chanting the word “Yeah!” in a Pharrell Williams four-count-in context (I mean, the guy did help produce the album). He addresses a smorgasbord of heavy topics in his new album; opening his soul up about his trauma, and being molested, his issues with his father, watching his mother get abused, and ending generational curses. 

There is a duality between the two sides of the LP. The first side is of the Big Steppers and the latter being Mr. Morale. This mirroring shines a light on Lamar’s psyche, pitting the Big Steppers half his evil and grieving side, while the second side happens to be about light and recovery.  

The name Duckworth is mentioned in Lamar’s last song on the album DAMN. “DUCKWORTH,” tells a tale of Kenny Duckworth, Lamar’s father and how if it wasn’t for his actions, the rapper wouldn’t be who he was, or where he was. His entrance transcended time and space over two albums. In the new album, Lamar’s last name Duckworth makes his first appearance on the song “Count Me Out,” with Eckhart Tolle, “one of the most inspiring and visionary spiritual leaders teachers in the world.” With Tolle’s help in 2020, Lamar said that he was able to “wipe my ego, dodge my pride” (Count Me Out). An interesting touch is that his fiancee Whitney Alford says “Session 10, Breakthrough” which is no coincidence as it is the tenth track and start of the second side.    

Another aspect of the album to note is the intense amount of collaborations the Compton King (Lamar) racked up. From Kodak Black on “Silent Hill” to Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah, and of course who could forget his little cousin Baby Keem. Even Blxst from the West Coast made an appearance in “Die Hard.”

This double LP was riddled with treasures, but my personal favourites (at least lyrically) had to be “Mr. Morale,” for the number of references it makes. Tyler Perry as well as the biblical Enoch make the cut in the song, along with a mention of R. Kelly and Oprah to boot. Another song is the first track “United In Grief” with its baring open his soul and giving off major To Pimp A Butterfly. “Auntie Diaries” and “Mirror” honestly made me tear up with their messages of trans (and queer) acceptance and his bipartition of “I choose me I’m Sorry” while maintaining a humble composure. “Mirror” also ties quite well with the continuous therapy addressed in “United in Grief,” almost as though he was mirroring, or coming full circle.  In my opinion, K-Dot outdid himself with this album. Is it easy listening? No. Does it matter? No. Will his fans love it the way they did his previous albums? Time will tell for this is an album to grow on and like Lamar has said in the past, “If a flower bloomed in a dark room would you trust it?” In this case, I would.   

Saro Hartounian

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