Kendrick Lamar’s album titles are always worded as though he’s trying to sincerely tell the listener something, so let’s embark on a trip of discovery in search of what Kendrick is saying after a 5 year absence. Let the journey of “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers” begin.
The first song “United In Grief” sets the tone for the album as expected, but in many ways than one. It introduces us to the reality that Kendrick is going through a grieving process and this whole album is a therapy session that he’s inviting us into. The title “United In Grief” gives away that we are all in this together, this is supported by the fact that his Fiancé Whitney Alford is on the intro encouraging him to “Tell them the truth”. The idea is that since Kendrick dropped his first album he’s been going through a process with us and in this album he is about to shed more light on this issue. In sharing his grief process he speaks on an affair he had on tour and the life he’s been leading away from the lime light in order to cope with his grief. Sound wise Kendrick is very experimental, the beat selection along with the content gives the impression that he’s had to step out of his comfort zone to tell new truths on new sounds.
In “N95” Kendrick continues to experiment with new sounds while challenging some social norms. It’s lyrically heavy as if he’s got a lot to get off his chest and in need to reintroduce himself to a new generation.
“Worldwide Steppers” is unfiltered “The first time I fucked a white bitch, I was sixteen at the Palisades”. Kendrick begins to reveal some of the racial conflicts he faces in his mind. He rhymes “She drove her daddy’s Benz found out that he was a sheriff, that was a win-win because he had locked up Uncle Perry she paid her daddy’s sins. Next time I fucked a white bitch Was out in Copenhagen good kid, m.A.A.d city tour i flourished on them stages. Whitney asked did I have a problem I said, “I might be racist” Ancestors watchin’ me fuck was like retaliation.”
“Die hard” starts of with a feel good vibe aided by blxst vocals offering some redemption in this song “I hope you see the God in me”. Kendrick raps “The lost ones keepin’ me up at night The world be reminding me it’s danger” and blxst chimes “Baby, you make me pray for London”. Kendrick here looks for acceptance in love and reminisce the tragedy of Nipsey realising that despite past mistakes love and ‘the now’ is what is important.
“Father Time” is a strong offering speaks to the soul of a generation struggling with daddy issues. “Oh, this the part, he breaks my humility just for practice tactics we learned together, sore losers forever, daddy issues”. Kendrick gives some insights on how he developed some of his mental schemas. It also offers as the juxtaposition of why he strived for excellence in his artistry to compensate because of said tough love. He acknowledges a generation struggling with similar issues and speaks to hearts by stating “And to my partners that figured it out without a father I salute you, may your blessings be neutral to your toddlers It’s crucial, they can’t stop us if we see the mistakes, till then let’s give the women a break”. Powerful!
Kodak black shines on “Rich’ (Interlude). Kodak does his mum proud 🙂 “I aint gon lie, we were poor, a bunch of lost souls in survival mode”. It is fitting that Kodak is a major feature as he’s the subject matter of Kendrick’s conversation in this album. He’s who Kendrick is talking about and for, young males who are products of government housing and inner city poverty, The projects.
We cry together is funny and very socially relatable. It’s a real time argument dealing with social issues. It’s Shakespearean in nature, plays like a novel and will make for highly entertaining theatre. It would do well playing live as it engages the audience. So far, Kendrick is highlighting a lot of social issues, we need to hear his take on possible solutions.
Right on time, in “Purple Hearts” Kendrick is more solution based lyrically.
“I bless it that you have an open heart, I bless that you forgive
I bless it that you can learn from a loss, I bless it that you heal
I bless one day that you attract somebody with your mind exact
A patient life, flaws, bless ’em twice, and they’ll bless you back”
Kendrick’s answer is ultimately Love and God. He acknowledges that his Fiancé Whitney Alford is his solace “my bitch know better than I do A woman’s worth, I barely went to church, I’d rather fast with you”. Summer Walker is complimentary on the hook and she flourishes on her verse. As a hiphop fan it’s an obligation to tell you that Ghostface Killa took this song to a whole other dimension and it was with glee that we listened to this classic verse.
“Telekinesis, I’m purifying these D speeches
While I’m crying, I clean the feet of the sweet Jesus
Dreams, visions get blurry of the Elohim, it’s light
It’s known to tear retinas in a single gleam
Shut the fuck up when you hear His love talkin’
To the mind, it’s God’s cypher divine in a small portion, uh
Faded pictures, this global madness, the intervention
This world’s in The Twilight Zone, this is the fifth dimension
God, please blow the whistle, we need an intermission”.
Ghost took us into the 5th dimension. At this staged the listener has been fully immersed into the album “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers”.
Reminder, this album is a therapy session!
“Count me out” Continues the therapy session which is in fact the basis for this album. It’s a very personal album so far and this song is no different, it’s very introspective. His Fiancé Whitney who earlier in the album asks him to go see Eckhart Tolle for a therapy session declares Session 10 as a breakthrough. Eckhart Tolle is featured in this song.
The album has entered into a melodic zone smoothly transitioning from the lyrically heavy rapping songs to smooth easy listening melodies.
In “Crown” he goes deeper into his soul, and speaks to the general soul of man. He’s one with his audience at this stage reinforcing to himself & us that we can’t be people pleasers. He’s a deeply introspective rapper and his vulnerability gives strength. This is a very honest piece of work, it’s authentic.
“Silent Hill” is the war/street song on the album and he brings in Kodak Black. The instrumental is cold, it sounds like guns with silencers shooting. Kodak Black compliments the song, the chemistry is there. Kendrick chose the right song for a Kodak verse feature. Once again the genius of featuring Kodak Black in this album is that he serves as one of his main subject matters on this album.
“Saviour (Interlude)” – “If you derive your sense of identity from being a victim. Let’s say, bad things were done to you when you were a child. And you develop a sense of self that is based on the bad things that happened to you” – Eckhart Tolle.
Baby Keem captures the other side of Kendrick’s subject matter, the good kid who suffered from poverty driven conditions. Keem raps “You ever seen your mama strung out while you studied division? Your uncle ever stole from you, day after Christmas?”. Keem comes of age in this song.
Keem represents one side of the story Kendrick is telling and Kodak Black represents the other side, highlighting the album title “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers”.
Kendrick went too hard on “Savior” – He addresses social criticism and essentially says Christ is the Savior not him. He emphasises in the intro “Kendrick made you think about it, but he is not your savior. Cole made you feel empowered, but he is not your saviour. Future said, “Get a money counter,” but he is not your saviour. ‘Bron made you give his flowers, but he is not your saviour, he is not your saviour”. He emphasises the position and perspective in which he’s coming from “Like it when they pro-Black, but I’m more Kodak Black”. The hook is very catchy, Keem questions the naysayers asking “are you happy for me”. Kendrick’s last verse is really deep and the whole song deserves a few replays.
Kendrick brushes off his shoulders on Mr. Morale “Who keep ’em honest like us? Who in alignment like us? Who gotta heal ’em all? Us”. He gets deep in the last verse “My mother was abused young like all of the mothers back where we from” he continues “Tyler Perry, the face of a thousand rappers
Using violence to cover what really happen” I’m sacrificin’ myself to start the healin’…
The theme of abuse continues on “Mother I sober” and its just too deep. Kendrick raps “Family ties, they accused my cousin, “Did he touch you, Kendrick?” Never lied, but no one believed me when I said “He didn’t”… “Did he touch you?” I said “No” again, still they didn’t believe me”. He goes deeper to explain generational trauma in the black community from slavery, abuse and rape by black oppressors. “Every other brother has been compromised, I know the secrets, every other rapper sexually abused I see ’em daily buryin’ they pain in chains and tattoos. So listen close before you start to pass judgement on how we move learn how we cope”. WOW!
He took the art to a place no other rapper has taken it. The hard truths in the black community concerning sexual abuse exposed for collective conscious healing. At the end of the song Whitney and his kids congratulate him and thank him. “You did it, I’m proud of you. You broke a generational curse. Say “Thank you, dad” Thank you daddy”. We all feel proud of him, he’s done something very deep sacrificial and important on this song.
In “Mirror” He chose him, this album is soul therapy he is exorcising his demons.
“Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers” is a classic album! This is the most authentic soul searching album I’ve ever heard. It makes sense that it took five years to birth.
Thank you Kendrick, You bared your soul to the world in order to bring healing.
By Kwasi Addo