Kendrick Lamar is a giddy dramatist who loves to pack his music with perspectives. His elastic narration and indignant dispatches on Black life have made him a figure of moral authority in hip-hop. But on mr.morale and the big steppers, he spends most of his time gleefully immolating that cherished reputation. Over slick production that fuses jazz, R&B, and trap, the album focuses on a therapeutic journey through trauma, infidelity, and celebrity worship. Guests include Whitney Alford, Eckhart Tolle, Beth Gibbons of Portishead, and the pgLang collective Blxst, Summer Walker, Amanda Reifer, Sampha, and Taylour Paige.
Why is Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers so good?
Having released two top-five albums and an array of critically acclaimed mixtapes, mr.morale and the big stepspers finds Kendrick grappling with self-actualization, in all its messy, unpredictable twists and turns. With its pgLang stamp and expansive ambition, it feels like the debut of a new Kendrick and may mark his final project under TDE’s banner.
Throughout the album, Kendrick is at once his most vulnerable and his most ferocious. On the slick “Savior,” he mocks those who look to entertainers as their moral compass: “Cole made you feel empowered, but he’s not your savior/ Future said ‘get a money counter,’ but he’s not your savior.” He raps with a hauntingly high-pitched delivery on the meditative “Mother I Sober” as he confronts the fact that fame is a toxic drug. But he also finds the courage to ask for help on the ecstatic “Count Me Out.” If mr.morale and the big takers are his therapy sessions, they’re also a confessional.