After being out of the spotlight over the past few years, Pulitzer Prize and multiple Grammy-Award winner Kendrick Lamar finally made his dramatic return to music with his fifth album Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers, his last album for Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE).
Lamar’s long-awaited studio album delivers a thought-provoking, cohesive body of work that speaks to our current moment as people of African descent and pushes the envelope with his intricate songwriting.
The LP is divided into two nine-track sides and features guest appearances by Summer Walker, Sampha, Ghostface Killah, Baby Keem, and several appearances by the much-maligned Kodak Black. On the production side, he enlists frequent collaborators Sounwave and Dahi, along with songwriting trio Beach Noise, Pharrell Williams, the Alchemist, and more.
The thematic thrust of the album covers a range of topics from Black suffering, sexuality, COVID-19, misogyny, cancel culture, toxic relationships, and much more. Unlink many of his contemporaries, Lamar is not afraid to reveal his vulnerabilities and idiosyncrasies in his music. As for his long absence, on "Worldwide Steppers" he muses, "Writer's block for two years, nothin' moved me/Asked God to speak through me, that's what you hear now/The voice of yours truly."
The opening track, “United in Grief,” explores Lamar's journey with therapy. He raps, “I went and got me a therapist/ I can debate on my theories and sharing it (Woah)/ Consolidate all my comparisons/Humble enough because time is imperative.”
On “Aunties Diaries,” he vividly recalls a family member's gender transition and how it forced him to honestly deal with his past homophobia.
Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers is not just a display of Lamar at his creative apex but the project also marks his transition from an artist into a businessman. As the New York Times reports, he will release his future projects under his own imprint pgLang, a brand which he announced two years ago as a “multilingual, at service company.” He plans to work on a range of creative and commercial projects, such as the visual for “The Heart Part 5” and new Converse sneakers.
After five years, Lamar has stunningly returned to the scene to solidify his place as one of the best MCs in hip hop history. His brutal honesty and impeccable artistry is compelling and fascinating throughout the entire album.
Without question, Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers is a monumental work that was well worth the wait.
Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers is currently available on all streaming platforms.