Kendrick Lamar Returns with ‘Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers’

After five years, Kendrick Lamar has returned.

Following his Grammy- and Pulitzer Prize-winning fourth album DAMN. in 2017, Kendrick and longtime friend/business associate Dave Free would launch their new company pgLang. Through the platform they’ve collaborated with Nike and Converse, while guiding the nascent careers of Baby Keem and Tanna Leone.

However in the summer of 2021, Lamar — under the new alias oklama — spoke on how he’s spent his time away and that his next album wold be his final under his longtime label home Top Dawg Entertainment.

“I spend most of my days with fleeting thoughts. Writing. Listening. And collecting old Beach cruisers. The morning rides keep me on a hill of silence. I go months without a phone,” Kendrick said. “Love, loss, and grief have disturbed my comfort zone, but the glimmers of God speak through my music and family. While the world around me evolves, I reflect on what matters the most. The life in which my words will land next.”

 

“As I produce my final TDE album, I feel joy to have been a part of such a cultural imprint after 17 years,” he continued. “The Struggles. The Success. And most importantly, the Brotherhood. May the Most High continue to use Top Dawg as a vessel for candid creators. As I continue to pursue my life’s calling. There’s beauty in completion. And always faith in the unknown. Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts. I’ve prayed for you all.”

On April 18th, following his Super Bowl halftime performance with Dr. Dre and company, Kendrick resurfaced to reveal the album’s title: Mr. Morale The Big Steppers before releasing “The Heart Part 5” – the fifth installment to his fantastic pre-album series that finds him flipping Marvin Gaye’s 1976 classic “I Want You” as he breaks down the idea of culture.

The visual – directed by Dave Free and Kendrick – is what truly brings the song to another level with Kendrick rapping in front of a red backdrop as his face transforms through a variety of iconic and notorious people within black culture. One minute he’s rapping through the guise of Will Smith and the next he’s Kobe Bryant. He’s Nipsey Hussle. He’s Kanye West, OJ Simpson, he’s “all of us.” The video, which is nearing 20 million views, has received a nonstop stream of both critical acclaim and needlessly insipid think pieces.

The wait is over now, though. After five long years, K. Dot/Kung Fu Kenny/oklama has released his fifth album, Mr. Morale the Big Steppers. Split into two parts, each containing nine tracks, the album is a dense and heavy listen.

Central to Lamar’s thesis is accountability. The MC has painstakingly itemized his shortcomings, assessing his relationships with money (“United in Grief”), white women (“Worldwide Steppers”), his father (“Father Time”), the limits of his loyalty (“Rich Spirit”), love in the context of heteronormative relationships (“We Cry Together,” “Purple Hearts”), motivation (“Count Me Out”), responsibility (“Crown”), gender (“Auntie Diaries”), and generational trauma (“Mother I Sober”). 

With features from Ghostface KillahBaby KeemBeth Gibbons of PortisheadSummer WalkerSamphaBlxstTanna Teone, and a few others, the album is available below. And, who am I kidding, no one is reading still at this point, right? You better have just pressed play already!

 

 

Kendrick Lamar Returns with Fifth Album, ‘Mr. Morale the Big Steppers’

 

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