Kendrick Lamar’s first album in five years needs no introduction. The Compton rapper’s long-awaited follow-up to Pulitzer Prize-winning DAMN was announced last month with a link to his Oklama website which revealed the LP title and release date. He then dropped “The Heart Part 5”, his first song as a lead artist since 2018 and the latest in his long-running “The Heart” singles series. Lamar has historically shared these tracks as a prelude to a bigger project. The accompanying video saw Kendrick harness deepfake technology to adopt the faces of OJ Simpson, Will Smith, Jussie Smollett, Kobe Bryant, Kanye West, and Nipsey Hussle, which he underlined with the quote: “I am. All of us.”
Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers repeatedly features the voice of Eckhart Tolle, the spiritual teacher and author, who narrates multiple songs. Opener “United in Grief” sees Kendrick recall meetings with psychologists over friends he’s lost and confesses to having “daddy issues” in “Father Time”; “Auntie Diaries” tells the story of two trans family members, while “Mother I Sober” is a heart-stopping exploration of childhood trauma. Across nine tracks, the artist touches on impossibly vast themes and emotions; but, united through charged prose and restless flow, directs the listener inwards, demanding radical empathy for all.
Elsewhere this week, Dean Blunt shares a woozy set of freestyles, Perel releases a haunting new album, and Varg2’s EP is a crushing delight to the senses.