Review: Kendrick Lamar, new album Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers

Kendrick Lamar Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers album cover | Instagram| Shot by @renellaice

May 13 Kendrick Lamar released his fifth studio album after a five year hiatus.

Pulitzer Prize-winning hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar has finally dropped his long-awaited follow-up album after removing himself from the spotlight for a few years. His new album is a lyrical masterpiece that not everyone relates to. It appears as though he is connecting to a select group of people, mainly African Americans.

The critics who aren’t as crazy about the album should realize maybe it wasn’t made for them. 

Kendrick addresses the nay-sayers in the song “Crown” by repeating the phrase “I can’t please everybody, I can’t even please myself.” It sounds like he is his loudest critic.

This album is a love letter to Kendrick’s fans and more importantly himself. He is transparent about his personal struggles as a young man growing up in Compton and slowly coming to terms with fame. 

Lamar has been compared to hip-hop royalty such as Tupac, Biggie Smalls, Jay Z and Eminem, which could be intimidating for any artist as those are pretty big shoes to fill. Although I believe Lamar will go down in history with the greats, he is in a league of his own.

His piano solos and less-than superior singing skills give the album its unique sound. Sometimes less is more. 

As a writer, my love for Kendrick is all about his poetry and innuendos. Lamar’s one-of-a-kind lyrical style and hidden context makes him a rare commodity that comes along once every hundred years. Every song needs a few plays on repeat to truly understand the meaning.

Lamar’s past success has surely convinced his label to drop some serious cash on a feature budget, yet Lamar doesn’t choose too many mainstream artists to use on his new album. He appears to stay true to his modest, non-celebrity image. 

His notorious reputation as a recluse gives him credibility as a true artistic genius who understands that to whom much is given, much is required. He seems to use his art for good and not for gain. It’s no secret many hip-hop artists get caught up in excess and use their platform to uplift their image, while Lamar chooses to use his platform to inspire.

I feel like his underlying message is I am just like you average Black guy who was able to break the generational curse of the descendants of enslaved Africans, which is poverty and despair. His real battle begins with keeping his humility and his figurative soul. 

Lamar claimed to have had writer’s block for the first two years. I speculate that his creativity was compromised by the pressures of deciding who to write for. Should he write for the label who wants duplicate success, or should he write for the other Black men in the hood who want to see themselves in his music? 

This new album is evidence that Lamar decided to write for himself. His lyrics seem like we’re reading excerpts from his doctor’s therapy notes and getting a glimpse into that therapy couch.

He is telling us, this is who I am, take it or leave it. Lamar’s genuineness is what his fans appreciate most about him. It’s what I appreciate most about him. His sense of self is so refreshing in the land of insecure, bipolar, clout-chasing hip-hop artists who seem to forget about the key word … artist.

Another contributing factor to his two-year writer’s block could also be that his last album won a Pulitzer Prize. How do you follow that?

Lamar reminds us in his song “Savior” that celebrities are not saviors. They are human and fallible thus should not be put on pedestals. Why does society give them so much credibility? He goes on to address the yes-men that attach themselves to celebrities but secretly wish for their demise and his seemingly annoyance with that aspect of fame.

Kendrick Lamar’s new album “Mr. Morale & the Big-Steppers” was a perfect follow-up to his last album “DAMN” and will cement his name in the hip-hop history books … should such a thing exist.

To his critics who don’t seem to catch the message Lamar is throwing, maybe it went too high over your head. I remember staring at the Mona Lisa created by Italian Renaissance painter Leonardo DaVinci wondering what’s the big deal? Albeit I am not a painter therefore I didn’t see the beauty; it doesn’t mean it’s not a masterpiece.