Kendrick Lamar - Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers
!I hope you findddd, some peace of mind, in this lifetimeeeeeee…..!
There is a thing about great artists. They have a tendency to present something that reflects something in you. Something that you were going through. Something that is a reflection of the way things are. That casts a light on the things you know are there but can’t see. Give phrase to the things you didn’t have words for. And revealing these things is a part of the therapeutic nature of consuming art of any medium. Through naming the unnamed one can realize that you aren’t going crazy, or that that thing that you disregarded isn’t a figment of your imagination and it can be acknowledged, dealt with or embraced. Something that’s truly rare is to find this in someone who has achieved the upper echelons of mainstream success. Most times it’s bullshit, but this time I can honestly say that I’m not surprised as I’ve had an eye on him ever since I saw that video of him freestyle over someone drumming on buckets in the street.
We all know what the last couple of years have been like in the world and why. One of the most interesting things about this is that it’s created a situation where people weren’t able to run away from their problems or themselves. On the outside, there were the protests for a while. Then on the inside, there was Netflix. But, one can only sit for so long with the TV on before you are forced to sit with yourself, and when you do sit with yourself you might as well go ahead and just be honest and deal with it. Have that talk with yourself in the hopes that you can take the measures to help heal yourself.
Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. won a Pulitzer Prize, and while something like that in the realm of Hip Hop may seem impossible to accomplish, it happened. How do you go forward and contend with those sorts of accolades and outdo yourself? You go inward. The words and themes and performances on this album are RAW. I mean like really RAW. I mean shit that track We Cry Together should come with a damn trigger warning. While I’d love to give a quote from this track for example I wouldn’t want to give any spoilers as it might ruin the experience.
When he was working on this album there were a few times when he stated that it would be a rock album. While it’s not per se, it does feel somehow produced with more stadium rock sensibilities while also emcompassing a myriad of other influences. The production feels polished, spacious and the layers and sonic changes feel made with a larger crowd in mind, which stands beautifully in contrast with the intimacy of the subject matter.
This album is riddled with all kinds of tidbits of honesty that could have only come from a combination of experience and reflection. With lyrics like, “You walk around like everything is in control/ Favours come with favours and you can’t say no”, on The Crown is an example of that. The beat-less track ends with a denouement-ic crescendo of blues-inflected vocal arrangements where the ad-libs and other overdubs feel like different parts of himself collectively reaching a conclusion.
Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is an album where the artist challenges his own unhealthy behaviors and touches on topics like generational trauma, therapy, fatherhood, cancel culture, gender identity, religion and more, it’s hard not to find an entry point to truly engage with this album. There are many quotes and fancy sayings that people use and say about healing yourself before you can heal others, and that’s what I think of when listening to this album. With that being said: “I hope you find, some peace of mind, in this lifetime…..”.