After more than a year of hints and teasers, Kendrick Lamar has officially released his fifth studio album, ‘Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers’.
- READ MORE: Kendrick Lamar’s new song ‘The Heart Part 5’ is an emotive glimpse into his latest form, Oklama
It’s a lengthy affair, spanning 73 minutes of heady, jazz-tinged hip-hop with rapping that, in true Kendrick style, oscillates between soulful and explosive. Last week’s tease that it would be a two-disc affair proved legitimate, too: ‘Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers’ is indeed presented as a double album, with each half sporting nine tracks.
The album also features a handful of guest spots: ‘Father Time’ has Sampha aiding on vocals, and ‘Mother I Sober’ has an appearance from Beth Gibbons of Portishead. Furthermore, three tracks on each disc are positioned as joint efforts – on disc one, ‘Die Hard’ is a three-way collab between Kendrick, Blxst and Amanda Reifer, while ‘We Cry Together’ sees Kung Fu Kenny join forces with Taylour Paige, and ‘Purple Hearts’ brings Summer Walker and Ghostface Killah into the fray.
On disc two, we have ‘Silent Hill’ with Kodak Black, ‘Saviour’ with Baby Keem and Sam Dew, and the titular ‘Mr. Morale’ with Tanna Leone. Each disc features an interlude: ‘Rich’ on the first, and ‘Saviour’ (a same-titled prologue to the aforementioned Keem and Dew collab) on the second.
Take a listen to ‘Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers’ below:
Lamar announced ‘Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers’ just shy of a month ago, cheekily doing so by responding to a fan that erroneously declared, “Kendrick Lamar is officially retired.”
At the start of the week, Lamar shared the album’s first and seemingly only single, ‘The Heart Part 5’. In addition to being his first headlined release since 2018 – when he dropped the SZA-featuring ‘All The Stars’, the lead single from his self-curated Black Panther soundtrack – it was notable for its polarising video, which used deepfake technology to incorporate “cameos” from the likes of Kanye West, Will Smith, OJ Simpson and the late Nipsey Hussle.
The song and video received an outpouring of acclaim from fans, colleagues and industry alike. Among the most notable fans was Hussle’s partner, Lauren London, who referred to the video – which launched a partnership between Lamar and South Park helmers Trey Parker and Matt Stone – as “powerful art”. NME gave the track a five-star review, with writer Kyann-Sian Williams calling it “[Lamar’s] most observational single yet”.
Yesterday (May 12) came with the official cover art for ‘Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers’. Like the artwork for its predecessor, 2017’s Pulitzer-winning ‘DAMN.’, the new cover has Lamar featured front-and-centre with a blank expression. This time, however, there’s more of a scene to appreciate: Lamar stands with his back to the camera, appearing to look wistfully out the window of a bedroom with what’s presumed to be his family.
Lamar is clad in a white tee and muted slacks, a handgun sticking out from his belt and a crown of thorns adorned on his head. He’s seen holding a young girl, who stares piercingly at the cover’s viewer, while on the bed in front of the rapper, a woman breastfeeds a newborn baby. Shot by New York photographer Renell Medrano, it’s a striking view of rich browns and beige, with a clear theme of family.
Have a look at the cover art and full tracklisting for ‘Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers’ below:
1. United In Grief
3. Worldwide Steppers
4. Die Hard (w/ Blxst and Amanda Reifer)
5. Father Time (ft. Sampha)
6. Rich (Interlude)
7. Rich Spirit
8. We Cry Together (w/ Taylour Paige)
9. Purple Hearts (w/ Summer Walker and Ghostface Killah)
1. Count Me Out
3. Silent Hill (w/ Kodak Black)
4. Savior (Interlude)
5. Savior (w/ Baby Keem and Sam Dew)
6. Auntie Diaries
7. Mr. Morale (w/ Tanna Leone)
8. Mother I Sober (ft. Beth Gibbons)
NME gave ‘DAMN.’ a four-star review, with writer Leonie Cooper saying: “Faith, p***y and politics – the mind of Kendrick Lamar is a hectic, action-packed place. The triumphant Compton MC might have cut down the number of tracks on his fourth studio album – ‘DAMN.’ is by far his shortest release to date – but the ideas, thoughts and feelings it contains are massive, weighty things, from sexual tension to deep, dark depression.
“Also jostling for attention is the eternal battle between good and evil, with some chart-friendly rap bangers thrown in just because he can. ‘DAMN.’ shows Lamar as spiritual but tormented, confused and ego-tripping all at the same time. Being Kendrick Lamar, you imagine, must be knackering.”