Does Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers step up to the social media hype surrounding it?
Here’s some quick, immediate thoughts about the new Kendrick album.
I keep reading these posts on social media hyping up the actual process of scheduling time to listen to his new full-length Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers, which hit streaming platforms today. And I’m sitting here scrolling past these posts like bruh, you cats are overthinking this way too hard.
It’s made to be heard, not over analyzed to death in a solid stream of high praise and hottakes I’ve seen across my feed today. For a second there, it made me not want to listen to Mr. Morale for the same reason I still haven’t watched Breaking Bad. All the high faulting Hosanna in the Highest type posts I’m reading are a little cringe. I love you, but chill. It’s just an album.
And generally when I see all this rah-rah, I usually lay low and wait for it to subside before diving in for a first listen. But I went all in earlier this afternoon.
My takeaway? It is a damn good album and I couldn’t help myself but listen to it twice. I personally like it a little better than its Pulitzer Prize-winning predecessor DAMN., but that’s just me. Songs like “Father Time” and “We Cry Together” (a staggering back-and-forth with Taylour Paige) exhibit a rapper at the top of his game, both lyrically and musically. His flow is so nice on cuts like “N95” and “World Wide Steppers”, it’s impossible not to acknowledge the growth even though he’s grown so much over the course of these last 10 years in the spotlight.
Even the tracks where Lamar could have relied on the wow factor of his guests–like Ghostface Killah on “Purple Hearts” and Portishead’s Beth Gibbons on the mesmerizing “Mother I Sober”–he saves his most personal lyricism for those moments, especially in the latter where he delivers a scorching account questionable instance of family trauma. “Auntie Diaries” is another fourth wall breaker in how Kendrick addresses a once-taboo topic in rap by breaking down his thoughts on a beloved family members transitioning genders. If anyone listened to hip-hop in the 90s, you know what a big deal this is.
As hip-hop inches towards 50 as a sound and a culture, Kendrick’s honesty and fearlessness on this record could very well be its most clear-eyed example of just how much we’ve grown as men of this culture in this last half century.
I never got an advance of this album, so I’m listening to it at the same pace as you are. But after spending some time with Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers today, it’s clear to me that Kendrick Lamar continues to evolve considerably with each LP he drops.
The one question remains…when will it come out on CD and vinyl?