On May 13, Kendrick Lamar released his fifth and final studio album with Top Dawg Entertainment titled “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers.” This album came out five years after his previous studio album, “DAMN.”
During the five years between projects, Kendrick worked on the “Black Panther” soundtrack, was featured in other artists’ songs, launched his multi-disciplinary media company, pgLang, and even performed at the 2022 Super Bowl Halftime Show. Other than that, however, Kendrick has kept a low profile from the public.
“Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers” reflects on Kendrick’s life during these five years, the pandemic, his family and mental health.
The album splits into two parts: “The Big Steppers” and “Mr. Morale.” Each song acts as a therapy session, where Kendrick expresses his issues with himself, society and raising his family.
In “The Big Steppers,” a standout track is “Father Time.” Kendrick explained how his upbringing was grounded in his father’s toxic masculinity, ego and pride in this song. He recognizes that those teaching were harmful and hindered his ability to open up emotionally in relationships.
The song “Die Hard” shows off this lack of vulnerability. Kendrick shares his struggles and insecurities with his partner, fearing she’ll reject the real him if he opens up.
The lasting effects of Kendrick’s so-called “daddy issues” are shown from another perspective in the track, “We Cry Together.” In this song, he gets into a verbally violent argument with his partner, showing off a misogynistic point of view.
Kendrick shares problems he’s been dealing with but takes steps around these issues rather than confront them head-on, hence the title, “The Big Steppers.”
In the “Mr. Morale” side of the album, Kendrick begins to open up and deal with his trauma head-on. He shares heartfelt and personal stories in a way fans have never heard before.
Kendrick becomes entirely transparent with his feelings and childhood trauma in the album’s penultimate track, “Mother I Sober.” It’s a powerful song where he attempts to resolve his issues to achieve spiritual freedom for himself and his family.
Interestingly, this album contrasts his previous projects, “To Pimp a Butterfly” and “DAMN.” Part of those albums’ narratives is about Kendrick stepping into the role as a public leader of his community for Black activism.
However, Kendrick doesn’t follow that up in his new album. Instead, he takes the time to express the stress and pressure of that role in the song “Crown” and how he’s just as human as everyone else in the song “Savior.”
In the final track, “Mirror,” Kendrick concludes the album by stepping away from that role to focus on his mental and spiritual well-being and family.
Overall, “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers” is an incredible album, with excellent production and great features. It’s yet another showcase of Kendrick’s versatility in sound, flow and storytelling.
The album gets better after each listen because there’s always something to unpack from the album’s lyrically dense content.
It was a long five years, but it was worth the wait. The world awaits what Kendrick will do now that he’s parted ways with Top Dawg Entertainment.