22, Oct 2023
Mr Morale and the Big Steppers

After more than a decade of steady success, it’s easy to assume Kendrick Lamar has nothing left to prove. Mr.morale and the big steppers already one of hip-hop’s most accomplished songwriters and stylists, with a virtuosic knack for packing his music with perspectives, personifying characters and muses with distinct voices, cadences, and beat switches. His elastic narration has made him a figure of supreme moral authority in hip-hop—a role he spurns on Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers, his fifth album.

Was Mr Morale and the Big Steppers a flop?

The project marks his debut with pgLang, the creative collective he founded in 2020 alongside Dave Free and Baby Keem, and his final release under TDE. It’s a kitchen-sink record about real life, in all its surprise twists and turns. It’s the soundtrack to an artist who realizes self-actualization is a lifetime pursuit.

It also reveals a wounded artist, willing to take on the burden of his past trauma and unpacking it in songs that are both dark and vulnerable. It’s a risky move for an icon whose music is dissected in barbershops, Reddit threads, and school classrooms. He seems to know this as he delves into the pain of “cancel culture” and sexual abuse on tracks like “Worldwide Steppers.”

Musically, Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers is a sonic departure from To Pimp a Butterfly, which fused jazz, funk, and blues. It’s a darker, more harrowing work that finds Lamar calculating his own capacity for survival on some of his most desolate production yet.

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