Kendrick Lamar’s Next Big Step

Kendrick+Lamar%E2%80%99s+Next+Big+Step

On May 13, 2022, Pulitzer prize-winning musician Kendrick Lamar’s eagerly anticipated fifth studio album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, officially released, receiving over 60 million streams within the first two days of its debut.

The album is composed of 18 songs, split into nine tracks and two sections, making it Lamar’s most ambitious musical project to date. Lamar also tackles some heavy themes in the release, including race, social media, therapy, relationships, generational trauma, religion, and gender.

“What’s the difference when your heart is made of stone, and your mind is made of gold, and your tongue is made of sword, but it may weaken your soul?” Lamar raps in the album’s fifth track, “Father Time.”

Lamar’s lyrical skill is prodigious enough to make gripping rhymes from some very well-worn topics: fake news, the projection of false lifestyles via social media, the pressures of fame, but more notable still is his willingness to take risks.”

— Alexis Petridis

The emotional transparency of the album did not go unnoticed by critics; Lamar has been applauded for the vulnerability he shows in Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, addressing topics that many mainstream artists try to avoid. Additionally, the technical skill shown in this release is nothing short of genius, seamlessly blending influences from alternative hip-hop and rap with progressive rock and soul. 

“Lamar’s lyrical skill is prodigious enough to make gripping rhymes from some very well-worn topics: fake news, the projection of false lifestyles via social media, the pressures of fame,” music critic Alexis Petridis said in an article for The Guardian. “But more notable still is his willingness to take risks.”

Touching upon a larger topic, Lamar’s song “Auntie Diaries” details his experiences with the transgender community through his uncle and cousin. Although many appreciated the overarchingly progressive message of the track, members of the LGBTQ+ community have criticized Lamar for the language he used in writing it.

“The response to the track has been strongly divisive,” reporter Scottie Andrew said in an article for CNN. “Some listeners took issue with Lamar misgendering his relatives — Lamar uses both “he/him” and “she/her” pronouns interchangeably for both family members. Other criticisms point to his use of his cousin’s former name and repeated use of an anti-LGBTQ slur.”

However, even with this feedback in mind, responses to the album have been overwhelmingly positive, uniting new and long-time listeners alike in the album’s brilliance. A meditation on the human experience, as well as the various intersections of race and gender that fall within it, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers will be a paradigm  of musical ingenuity for years to come.“In laying his soul bare, [Lamar] hopes we realise how we can set ourselves free from generational curses too,” reporter Kyann-Sian Williams said in an article for NME. “This album is as much about struggle as it is freedom, and what a beautiful sentiment that is.”