Album Review Kendrick Lamar - Mr Morale & the Big Steppers

His least straight-forward record, and his most confessional.

Kendrick Lamar - Mr Morale & the Big Steppers

“Sorry I didn’t save the world my friend, I was too busy building mine again” says Kendrick Lamar on ‘Mirror’, a pivotal moment for an artist who’s been carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders for some time now. It suggests that on this fifth record - a dense and daring double album - the rapper has finally freed himself from his saviour complex, and accepted his humanity, and the flaws and failings that go with it. As a result it’s maybe his least straightforward record, the high octane trap of ‘N95’ and smooth R&B of ‘Die Hard’ as close as it gets to echoing past pop crossovers, but it’s certainly his most confessional; the advent of therapy leads Kendrick to break through cycles of toxic masculinity, infidelity and family trauma. It’s uncompromising yet nonetheless inventive, with eccentric flows and inspired production choices such as frantic mid-song beat switches, a recurring tap dancing motif and the high drama of ‘We Cry Together’ - more performance piece than pop song - that’s unrelenting in its ugliness as it exhausts the listener for near-on six minutes. At one stage Kendrick mentions that he’s not in the music business, but the human business, and with this being his swan song for Top Dawg Entertainment, his next step seems more unpredictable than ever before. But when he still delivers surprises like this, all the better for it.

 

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