Florence Welch, Baby Shark and trans rights: the highlights from Kendrick Lamar’s Mr Morale and The Big Steppers
Kung Fu Kenny is back. Mr Morale and The Big Steppers, Kendrick Lamar's first album in five years, is a behemoth – a deeply rich, funny, and moving collection of songs that sounds a little bit To Pimp A Butterfly, a little bit Damn. and a little bit like nothing we’ve ever heard before. We’d expect no less from the best rapper alive.
At 18 tracks over an hour and 20 mins that feature a treatise on the trans experience, a Baby Shark reference and perhaps Lamar’s most epic and personal (and best?) song ever, there is a lot to unpack. Let’s get into it.
Lamar became a dad in 2019 (yep that’s his entire actual family on the album cover), and he’s obviously in the same YouTube cycle as every other parent on the planet, as revealed on “Worldwide Steppers”: “Playing ‘Baby Shark’ with my daughter, watching for sharks outside at the same time”. Baby Shark feature when?
Just when you thought King Kendrick wasn’t paying any attention to the wider rap game, he goes and namechecks the most contentious beef of the past few years. “When Kanye got back with Drake, I was confused – guess I’m not as mature as I think, got some healing to do”.
Ye and Drake famously buried the hatchet after a years-long feud in December last year, uniting for a benefit concert in Los Angeles. Lamar and Drake have seemingly been on bad terms themselves since 2013, when the former name-checked the latter on his infamous “Control” verse. Which might explain why Kendrick seems to be confused that Kanye deigned to make up with Drake, rather than the other way round…
On opener “United In Grief”, Lamar goes deep on his post-fame spending habits. The list includes at least one Mercedes, 500k on jewellery, a Rolex he wore just once (we’ll take it off your hands, bud). But the most enlightening revelation goes: “got me a therapist” – which, okay, yes, everybody goes to therapy these days, but it’s really not every day that you hear a rapper dropping it into a verse. We have to stan a self-aware king who wants to improve himself!
Also on “United In Grief”: “Poppin a bottle of Claritin” – it’s seasonal allergy time, lads! And not even the greatest rapper alive is immune. Stay safe out there.
Lamar enlisted the best producers in the game for this one, including Pharrell, The Alchemist, DJ Dahi, Sounwave, Duval Timothy, Boi-1da, Beachnoise. He was not messing around.