Lamar, Kendrick: Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers LP
Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers serves as Compton-born rap superstar Kendrick Lamar's first new album since 2017's critically acclaimed DAMN and his fourth album to hit No. 1 on the US album chart. The double album features a number of special guests, including Sampha on "Father Time," Summer Walker and Ghostface Killah on "Purple Hearts," Kodak Black on "Silent Hill," fellow pgLang signee Tanna Leone on "Mr. Morale," and Portishead frontperson Beth Gibbons on "Mother I Sober." It boasts production from Duval Timothy, Boi-1da, Sounwave, Bekon, and more. Lamar also assisted on a number of tracks, with his production credit listed as OKLAMA. Legendary producer The Alchemist lends his skill to "Mr. Morale," providing the synth and electro-funk inspired beat.
Kendrick touches on many controversial, timely themes throughout the record, including on "Auntie Diaries," where he tells the tale of his aunt's transition and his response to it. On "Mother I Sober," he examines accusations of abuse and pain that lingers from such situations, rapping, "Family ties, they accused my cousin, did he touch you Kendrick?/ Never lied, but no one believed me." On "Savior," he dives headfirst into the messy politics of COVID-19, spitting, "Seen a Christian say the vaccine muck of the beast/ Then he caught COVID and prayed the Pfizer for relief/ Then I caught COVID and started to question Kyrie/ Will I stay organic or hurt in this bed for two weeks?"
In a five-star review, NME called the album a "cathartic, soul-baring autobiography" that "serves up vignettes about what it's like to be a Black adult whose trauma still haunts them. In laying his soul bare, he hopes we realise how we can set ourselves free from generational curses too. This album is as much about struggle as it is freedom, and what a beautiful sentiment that is."