A Review of Kendrick Lamar’s Long Awaited Fifth Studio Album


Screenshot courtesy Aaron Grow.

On May 13, Kendrick Lamar released his long awaited fifth studio album, “Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers” (MMBS). This follows a five-year hiatus after Lamar’s last studio album, which released in 2017. “Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers” is a double album, with each disc holding nine tracks.

Lamar went basically off the grid after he contributed to the 2018 Black Panther Soundtrack, leaving fans of Lamar and the general hip-hop community in thirst of some new content. Lamar remained far from irrelevant, but his dominance was immediately reinforced by his feature on Baby Keem’s 2021 song, “family ties.” Baby Keem, who’s official name is Hykeem Carter, is Kendrick Lamar’s cousin, hence the name of the track. Months after the release of this single, Carter released his album, “The Melodic Blue,” which hailed a few features from his cousin Kendrick. This led fans to want more, eventually culminating in Lamar’s announcement of “Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers” on April 18.

MMBS was immediately met with mixed reviews, with some feeling as though this was some of his best work, while others immediately claimed it wasn’t worth the five year wait. This is quite possibly some of his most emotional work, with Lamar taking a very introspective look onto his life and culture. Lamar told us in “family ties,” “New flows coming be patient brother,” and this certainly holds true. Lamar experiments with multiple new sounds, some of which resonated with listeners better than others.

Lamar opens up MMBS with “United in Grief,” in which he notes how he’s started going to therapy, and highlights different aspects of the hip-hop culture that he’s a part of that he seems to regret. He discusses the impact a hookup he experienced on tour had on his relationship with his fiancee, who is also a partial narrator of the album. Once again, Lamar opens up on his personal childhood experiences in “Father Time,” discussing his “daddy issues.” Lamar discusses his confrontational and distant relationship with his father, with elegant vocals from English singer Sampha interwoven throughout.

The eighth track of the first disc, “We Cry Together,” left many listeners with nothing short of an awkward feeling. We hear Lamar and actress Taylour Paige yelling back and forth at each other, giving us a feeling like overhearing an intense argument that we aren’t supposed to be hearing. Many people have compared this to Eminem’s 2000 song, “Kim” in which Eminem plays both roles of himself and his ex-wife Kim Scott in an argument. “We Cry Together” seems to be trying to represent Lamar’s relationship with his fiancee, and how each of them have done and said regrettable things throughout their extensive relationship.

In “Auntie Diaries,” Lamar discusses his relationship with his aunt who has transitioned to a male. He discusses how in his past before he understood this, Lamar used slurs and made derogatory remarks in regard to them. He elaborates on how as time has gone on, he has understood more and come to accept his “Auntie’s” new identity.

Lamar’s album is also scattered with features, some being from controversial rapper Kodak Black. Kodak has quite the legal past, with a sexual assault and rape charge being brought to him in 2016. The album also has features from up and coming rapper Baby Keem, Summer Walker, Ghostface Killah (a member of the Wu-Tang Clan), and many more.

Overall, Kendrick Lamar’s fifth studio album was an enjoyable listening experience for myself. While I wish certain songs wouldn’t have made the final cut, it was a very solid album overall, and I rank it fourth in Lamar’s discography, after “good kid, m.A.A.d city,” “To Pimp A Butterfly” and his last studio album released in 2017.