Comes on 2LP vinyl.
On his fifth album, Kendrick retreats from the limelight and turns to himself, highlighting his insecurities and beliefs. It’s ambitious, impressive, and a bit unwieldy.
Kendrick Lamar is a giddy dramatist. He loves to pack his music with perspectives, personifying his many characters and muses with distinct voices, cadences, and beat switches that bring them to life. Those virtuosic tics have made him one of rap’s most celebrated storytellers and stylists; he is the first and only rapper to have won a Pulitzer Prize. For some, Kendrick’s elastic narration and indignant dispatches on Black life have made him a figure of supreme moral authority in hip-hop—a role he spurns on his fifth studio album. Kendrick spends Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers gleefully immolating his cherished reputation, swinging between caustic taunts and plaintive confessions over slick funk and soul production that gleams like shards of a mirror. The double album offers rap’s most jarring heel turn since Future cut loose on Monster, taking an unfocused but probing look at Kendrick’s most elusive character: himself.
Regarded as Lamar’s most confessional body of work, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers is a concept album that analyzes and reflects on his life experiences during his therapy journey. Its lyrics touches on a variety of personal themes, including childhood and generational trauma, infidelity, and celebrity worship. Primarily a conscious hip hop record, the album experiments with minimalist production while incorporating elements of jazz, R&B, trap, and soul. It features narration by Whitney Alford and Eckhart Tolle, and guest appearances from Blxst, Amanda Reifer, Sampha, Taylour Paige, Summer Walker, Ghostface Killah, Baby Keem, Kodak Black, Sam Dew, Tanna Leone, and Beth Gibbons of Portishead. Lamar, who executive produced the album under the pseudonym Oklama, reunited with frequent collaborators Sounwave, J. Lbs, DJ Dahi, and Bekon for the majority of the album’s production.