Lamar returns with big steps

Lamar returns with big steps

Jeffery Dreyer, staff writer

Part One, before we begin.

Kendrick Lamar wants you to know he is not a good man. His most recent project, “Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers” invites you to peer into Kendrick’s consciousness. He’s a man plagued by his father’s emotional absence, a man who has taken his pain out on women, a man who’s kept himself sober in body, but not in mind. 

This review will be serialized, to give enough space for each part of Mr. Morale’s greater picture to become clear. The first part of our review, which you’re reading now, will cover some context around Mr. Morale and go over some visuals accompanied by the album itself.

Kendrick Lamar has been isolated from the celebrity cycle for five years. Following the release of 2017’s DAMN., Lamar only appeared publicly as a consultant for the soundtrack to Black Panther in 2018 and later in features with his cousin, Baby Keem. Teasing in early 2022 related to Kendrick’s creative collective pgLang, lead up to May 8th, 2022, when The Heart part 5 was posted online, only 6 days later, Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers would be released on May 14th.

Intentionality is Kendrick Lamar’s bread and butter, inviting you to dig deep into each lyric, each sample, every choice. First, let’s look over the cover art used with Mr. Morale. The art mirrors the cover of his 2012 project m.A.A.d city; they’re both pictures of Kendrick’s family. In m.A.A.d city Kendrick the child looked straight towards the viewer, but in Mr. Morale Kendrick the man, the husband, stares out to the right. m.A.A.d city tells an abridged version of Kendrick’s youth, he wants you to know how he was raised, and what struggles he went through. Mr. Morale is a self-inspection. He’s got a family now, he wants to take accountability for his failures.

Kendrick has struggled with his audience calling him a ‘savior’ and he’s obviously focused on that by wearing a crown of thorns. In the bible, the crown of thorns was placed on Jesus’ head during his crucifixion, as a way to mock his claim of authority, his claim of being the savior.

A pistol is holstered in his waistband, facing away from his family. He can’t deny part of his past, but he’ll keep this new chapter of his life separate. He’s got a family now, he’s raising the next generation. How will he raise them? By placing the pistol in his back waistband, he inverts the cover art from m.A.A.d city. He’ll raise his child in a better environment, he’ll always have stories of the homies he lost.

In To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick has spoken about the ghettoization of his mind via systemic racism. The room he stands in has plaster covering damage in multiple places. This is a sign that Kendrick is patching over the bullet holes, the wounds in his mind trapping him in a mindset. He may never be able to paint the holes over, but he can deal with them and move forward in his life. As the album develops and we see more of who Kendrick is after all these years, we have to ask, will he break the cycle he was born into?

This concludes the first part of our Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers analysis. Contact me at [email protected] or @madebydreyer and tell me what you thought! We’ll continue with the review in the coming weeks, so stay tuned on all our social media to see when it goes up!