Kendrick Lamar’s long-awaited album has finally dropped. “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers” comes in, makes a large, shocking impression, and may not be everyone’s cup of tea. A big reason why is the large number of songs that may not be radio-friendly hits. However, it is, to no surprise, undeniably great.
After posting the ominous and lyrically dense video for “The Heart Part 5,” in which the rapper’s face morphs into celebrities O.J. Simpson, Jussie Smollett, Kanye West, Kobe Bryant, Will Smith, and Nipsey Hussle. During different key points of the song, Lamar and director Dave Free use deep fake technology to emulate the celebrities’ faces. You can see Lamar transforms into Kanye West when he talks about bipolar disorder or dying before your prime as he goes from the late LA icons Kobe Bryant and Nipsey Hussle.
The Heart series is a long-time tradition by the Compton rapper, who uses every installment to introduce his upcoming album. He begins the video by saying “I am. All of us.” He represents the culture, black or otherwise. That is for better or for worse as he tackles having such an influence during the album’s song “Savior,” where he says that celebrities’ words should only be taken at face value and should not be a testament to their moral integrity (which is readily apparent as controversial rapper Kodak Black appears throughout the album).
Throughout the album, Lamar addresses plenty of issues that have arrived since his last album, a ceremoniously long five years ago (if you don’t count the Black Panther soundtrack), which he references on his intro track “United in Grief,” “I’ve been goin’ through somethin’ / One-thousand eight-hundred and fifty-five days / I’ve been goin’ through somethin’ / Be afraid.” He addresses topics like sexual assault, domestic violence, infidelity, celebrity worship, and trans allyship. It is a lot to tackle, which is a heavy ask for even Lamar’s double album.
The first video from the album also dropped for “N95.” The song is the second on the album, where Lamar raps about the parallels of hiding under a fake guise. The delivery is in your face and the energy is present as he moves from scene to scene, conveying how authentic he is and the ensuing fallout as he hangs above the ocean by an invisible crucifix. It is a dynamic song that reminds seasoned Kendrick fans of the high-octane video of the “DNA” video off his last album “DAMN.”
Then there’s “We Cry Together,” everyone’s favorite song you’ll only listen to once and will never make your Spotify’s “Liked Songs.” It features actress Taylour Paige as they rap back and forth, playing the role of a toxic relationship. Both perform their lines wonderfully, as Paige’s vocal cracks really represent a girlfriend who is fed up with her relationship.
While there is so much more to dissect from this album, the gist remains: Lamar hears all the commentary about what he has to address and what his opinions are but decides to ignore it. Instead, he chooses what he wants to talk about, what he wants to get off his chest, and what topics are important to him. While he delivers more on certain topics, some of the smaller issues get left a little bit in the background.