At long last, Kendrick Lamar has released his new album Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, his final album for Top Dawg Entertainment. Lamar officially announced the record last month with a link to his Oklama website, which revealed the LP title and release date. The album features a string of notable collaborators such as Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, Summer Walker, Ghostface Killah, Thundercat, Baby Keem, Sampha, and others. Listen to Kendrick Lamar’s new album Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers below. (Pitchfork earns a commission from purchases made through affiliate links on our site.)
The album repeatedly features the voice of Eckhart Tolle; the spiritual teacher and author narrates multiple songs. Lamar’s partner Whitney Alford is credited as a narrator on “We Cry Together,” which also features a Florence and the Machine sample. Producers across the album include Pharrell, Duval Timothy, the Alchemist, Beach Noise, Boi-1da, Sounwave, Dahi, FNZ, J.LBS, Bekon, and many more.
Lamar alludes to cancel culture throughout the album, and Kodak Black is a notable presence on several tracks. Last year, in a case relating to a 2016 incident, the rapper pled guilty to the first degree assault and battery of a woman who had also accused him of rape. (He denied the latter charge.) He is an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump, who commuted his four-year prison sentence on a weapons charge in early 2021.
On “Father Time,” which features Sampha, Lamar alludes to the rivalry and reconciliation between Kanye West and Drake. “When Kanye got back with Drake, I was slightly confused,” he raps. “Guess I’m not as mature as I think, got some healing to do.”
Lamar has been teasing his “final TDE album” since August of last year, when he launched his mysterious Oklama website and released an allusive statement on his next body of work. “I feel joy to have been a part of such a cultural imprint after 17 years,” he wrote of Top Dawg Entertainment. Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers follows his Pulitzer Prize–winning 2017 full-length Damn.
Earlier this month, Lamar posted another link to his Oklama site, this time leading to a black folder containing a page called “master.” Upon that page was a photograph of a hand holding both a book with Lamar’s name and “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers” on the cover. Two CDs were held on top of the book—one with “Morale” and the other with “Steppers,” each marked as a master copy.
Less than a week before the release of the new LP, Lamar 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. Historically, Lamar has shared these tracks as a prelude to a bigger project. “Part 5” arrived with a music video directed by Dave Free and Lamar, in which the rapper’s face morphs into deepfakes of OJ Simpson, Will Smith, Jussie Smollett, Kobe Bryant, Kanye West, and Nipsey Hussle. The visual opened with this quote attributed to Oklama: “I am. All of us.”
Lamar has since revealed the album artwork for Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers: a somber image shot by Renell Medrano. In the intimate bedroom scene, Lamar wears a crown of thorns while carrying a child whose gaze pierces the camera. In the background, a woman sits on an unmade bed holding a baby. Lamar, who has a gun conspicuously tucked into his pants, stares out of the window, as if on the alert for threats.
In the years since he released Damn., Lamar has appeared on songs by Busta Rhymes, Terrace Martin, Sir, and Anderson .Paak. He helmed Black Panther: The Album, the soundtrack to Ryan Coogler’s Marvel blockbuster, and released the Grammy-nominated “All the Stars” with SZA. In March 2020, Lamar and Dave Free launched pgLang, a “multi-lingual, at service company” that creates multimedia content for high-end brands.
“Family Ties,” Lamar’s 2021 collaboration with his cousin and protégé, Baby Keem, went on to win the 2022 Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance. Lamar joined Keem onstage to perform the song and another collaboration, “Vent,” at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival last month. After joining a bumper-edition Super Bowl halftime show in February, Lamar is set to headline both Glastonbury and Rolling Loud Miami later this year.
- Young Thug and Gunna Indicted on Racketeering Charges
- Number Of Tracks On Burna Boy’s ‘Love Damini’ Album Revealed