Jalan Ward | Published May 29th, 2022
ALBUM RATE OUT OF 10: 8.9/10
(This rate is subject to change as I continue to listen more and more.)
"I've been going through something...." - Kendrick Lamar
On Friday the 13th of May, Kendrick Lamar returned with his latest installment "Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers". His best work yet?
One word to describe this album off bat, phenomenal! We are not going to sit here and act like Kendrick Lamar did not just release the highly anticipated comeback album of the year! There is a lot to unpack with this album and there is some things we may have missed with this review because it's simply not just a album you listen to a handful of times. I'm on listen number 15x and I'm picking up new patterns, and messages each listening session. Even the production has some unique sounds that displays a plethora of messages, and symbolism.
"Compton's own" returned from a 5 year mental hiatus to deliver new sounds, lyricism, and incredible production. Kendrick divided the album into 2-pieces of art (Mr. Morale / The Big Steppers). Album #1 is kicked-off with "The Big Steppers" which was perfect to do because a proper introduction was indeed needed to remind listeners why K.Dot is the leader of Rap/Hip-Hop. Most importantly, fans really wanted to get an idea of where has Kendrick been, and where has he been mentally. For myself, the 1st track United In Grief does just that! An update from what the world has been delivering over the years and where Kendrick stands through it all. He let's you know from the very beginning that "I've been going through something". It's clear that K.Dot has had some waves of emotions by the world. I can't blame him, we as people are distracted by the non-sense that goes on in our world. Kendrick, is anticipating speaking his truth through a series of volumes in the album.
I was kind of surprised that throughout the album Kendrick used Kodak Black as a vessel throughout both projects which is pretty interesting since you wouldn't really predict the two artists collaborating. That's the cool thing about Kendrick, you don't know what to expect with his artwork. I personally believe using Kodak was important to Kendrick as Kodak has positioned himself as someone who will always be upfront about how he feels towards society, and he's never really changed his persona even after gathering fame. I truly think I get that context Kendrick!
You would think I was exaggerating for what I'm about to say but....This double album need's to implement a no-skip policy. Every song is really good! For some reason each song is growing on me in different perspectives. It provides so many different feels, and takes you through a unique experience. This is what is missing in today's rap game. Not many artists can give you chills and create storylines for listeners to invest their minds and ears into.
Some songs that stuck out to me from the first couple of listens (favorites maybe): N95, Rich Spirit, Father Time (feat. Sampha), Count Me Out, Silent Hill (feat. Kodak Black), but I think Mother I Sober is my favorite song off the album right now. We Cry Together displays the mental health trauma most Black couples go through, and honestly this was necessary as we don't have conversations about why Black men and Black women degrade each other through various forms. The ending of the song stated "Stop tap dancing around the conversation" (side note: Kendrick used two Black kids who tap dance in the album), but anyway, I believe that was important as we as Black people deflect the important conversations we need to actually have even in relationships.
Now let's travel a little bit into Mr. Morale. I'm still currently dissecting this portion of the double album. He features more artists on this side, even his very own artist from his label PGLang. I believe Kendrick Lamar gets a little more personal, deeper thinking, and mental processes about his own issues like dealing with therapy. Some songs seem darker but I believe it was purposed to showcase his human issues.
"You walk around like everything is in control"...... "You can't please everybody", Therapy is the cure as Kendrick refers to therapy more than once.
Music is the universal source to healing the world through messages. Kendrick is figuring out how to reach the people who need it the most. Kudos to you Kendrick! You met the expectations with this album. I can't wait to see how you set up the tour for the summer. Last thing, watch how both albums will grow on you, and through the culture. A timeless moment to say the least.
Review by: Jalan R. Ward