As If He Never Left: Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers

Jason Rong, Opinion Editor

Kendrick Lamar is a world-renowned rapper with multiple platinum albums under his belt. His music is known for its thought-provoking lyrics and unique rhythm scheme. After releasing his critically acclaimed album, DAMN, in 2017, Kendrick went on a hiatus, and the world patiently waited for his next body of work. Five years later, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers arrived with high anticipation, crashing both Apple Music and Spotify in the first hour of its release. 

On the album cover, Kendrick Lamar is seen holding his daughter and playing the role of a father in a bedroom setting. In the background, behind what seems to be Kendrick’s wife, bullet holes are seen in the bedroom walls. This imagery does a great job of reflecting Kendrick’s responsibility to keep his family intact. 

As the name suggests, the eighteen-track album has two parts, with each disk consisting of nine tracks. Some of my personal favorites from Mr. Morale (disk 1) are N95 and Purple Hearts. On N95, Kendrick showed off his ability to flow on the beat effortlessly. To allow listeners to experience N95 on a deeper level, Kendrick dropped a visual for the song. Click here to check it out. On Purple Hearts, he went experimental in his delivery by singing alongside Atlanta R&B artist Summer Walker. 

Some standouts on the Big Steppers (disk 2) are Count Me Out and Mirror. Count Me Out introduces disk 2 with heavenly vocals from singer Sam Dew. Although Kendrick does a great job rapping on Count Me Out, singing from Sam Dew is the highlight as his melodies make the song significantly cachier. The outro song Mirror brings a beautiful closure to the album. According to Genius, The repetition of “I chose me; I am sorry” in the outro shows that Kendrick is apologetic for leaving his fans hanging for five years. 

This album was and still is met with mixed reviews. While some praised the album for its lyricism, others criticized it for its orchestral beats and complained that it catered away from the mainstream sound. American rapper Eminem praised the album, stating, “The album is freaking ridiculous. I’m speechless.” In my opinion, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is a phenomenal album as it consists of great production from talented producers such as Pharrell Williams. Kendrick delivered as usual on the vocal and lyrical front, giving listeners new catchy flows to listen to and lyrics that take time to dissect. I also like that it features lesser-known artists rather than household names. Some notable mentions from the album are Taylour Paige, Tanna Leone, and Beth Gibbons.

Despite moving away from the sound that pleases the radio, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is on track to sell 350K (520,000,000 streams) in its first week of release, becoming Kendrick’s fourth studio album to reach the number one spot on the Billboard 100. After a five year hiatus, Kendrick Lamar remains one of the most successful and influential artists alive.