Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers

2022 studio album by Kendrick Lamar

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Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers
Kendrick Lamar - Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.png
Studio album by
ReleasedMay 13, 2022 (2022-05-13)
Genre
Length73:05
Label
Producer
Kendrick Lamar chronology
Black Panther: The Album
(2018)
Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers
(2022)

Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers is the fifth studio album by American rapper Kendrick Lamar, released on May 13, 2022, through PGLang, Top Dawg Entertainment, Aftermath Entertainment and Interscope Records. It is Lamar's first full-length album release since the Black Panther soundtrack (2018), and his first solo studio album release since Damn (2017). The double album serves as his final project with Top Dawg.[1]

The album features narration by Whitney Alford and Eckhart Tolle, and guest appearances from Blxst, Amanda Reifer, Sampha, Taylour Paige, Summer Walker, Ghostface Killah, Baby Keem, Kodak Black, Sam Dew, Tanna Leone, and Beth Gibbons of Portishead. Lamar reunited with frequent collaborators Sounwave, J.LBS, DJ Dahi, and Bekon for the majority of the album's production.

Background

In December 2020, the Roskilde Festival announced that Lamar would be headlining the festival in 2021, noting that "new material [was] on the way".[2][3] On April 14, 2021, during an interview with Complex in commemoration to the fourth anniversary of Damn, Lamar's engineer MixedByAli was asked if the album would arrive in 2021 and replied: "It might, it might, you never know".[4][5]

In a blog post on August 20, 2021, Lamar announced that he was in the process of producing his final album under the Top Dawg Entertainment label, writing:

I spend most of my days with fleeting thoughts. Writing. Listening. And collecting old Beach cruisers. The morning rides keep me on a hill of silence. I go months without a phone. Love, loss, and grief have disturbed my comfort zone, but the glimmers of God speak through my music and family. While the world around me evolves, I reflect on what matters the most. The life in which my words will land next. As I produce my final TDE album, I feel joy to have been a part of such a cultural imprint after 17 years. The Struggles. The Success. And most importantly, the Brotherhood. May the Most High continue to use Top Dawg as a vessel for candid creators. As I continue to pursue my life's calling. There's beauty in completion. And always faith in the unknown. Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts. I've prayed for you all. See you soon enough.[6]

On January 27, 2022, Billboard reported that a single release on February 4 or 11 was possible, before Lamar performed at the Super Bowl LVI halftime show.[7]

Music and lyrical themes

Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers is a double album consisting of 18 songs split into two sections of nine tracks.[8][9] The first album, Big Steppers, is narrated by Lamar's longtime partner, beautician Whitney Alford. The second album, Mr. Morale, is narrated by spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle.[10][11][8] Musically, it is an alternative hip hop, conscious hip hop[12] and jazz rap[13] record with diverse elements of soul, funk, blues, progressive rock, psychedelia, and West Coast hip hop.[14] The subject material of the album provides an independent viewpoint and deals with societal and contemplative topics such as social media, cancel culture, free speech, mainstream media, capitalism, sexuality, gender, the concept of identity, Christianity, parenthood and romance.[8][9]

Much of the album was produced by Lamar's frequent collaborators Sounwave, J.LBS, DJ Dahi, and Bekon.[9] Other production contributions came from Boi-1da, Baby Keem, Jahann Sweet, The Donuts, Tae Beast, The Alchemist, and Pharrell Williams, amongst others.[15] Additional songwriting contributions came from a variety of artists such as Sam Dew, Thundercat, Tommy Paxton-Beesley, and Homer Steinweiss.[15][16]

Songs

The second track, "N95", is a comical slight at the trendy, fashion-like, sell-out mainstream woke ideology, hypocrisy and cancel culture.[17] The eighth track, "We Cry Together", samples Florence + the Machine's song "June". Lyrically, it revolves around a heated argument between Lamar and actress Taylour Paige.[8][9][18] "Auntie Diaries" tells the story of Lamar's transgender uncle and cousin, while he criticizes societal views on the LGBTQ+ community.[19]

Release and promotion

On April 18, 2022, Lamar announced the album's name and its release date of May 13, 2022, through a PGLang-headed letter.[20][21] The website was also updated with a new page called "The Heart", containing 399 empty computer folders, indicating a possible release of "The Heart Part 5", a continuation of Lamar's "The Heart" song series.[22] On May 3, 2022, Lamar teased the release of the album with a photo that appears to show the master copy of the finished album.[23]

On May 8, 2022, the fifth part to Lamar's "The Heart" song series, "The Heart Part 5", was released to streaming services, with an accompanying music video being released on Lamar's YouTube channel.[24][25]

On May 11, 2022, Lamar revealed the album's cover through his social media accounts.[26][27]

Tour

On May 13, 2022, following and in promotion of the album's release, Lamar announced a 65-date concert tour, The Big Steppers Tour which will visit the United States, Canada, Europe, and Oceania. Baby Keem and Tanna Leone will join as the opening acts on all 3 legs of the tour.[28]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
AnyDecentMusic?9.6/10[29]
Metacritic100/100[30]
Review scores
SourceRating
Clash10/10[31]
The Daily Telegraph[32]
Evening Standard[33]
The Guardian[34]
i[35]
The Independent[36]
The Line of Best Fit10/10[37]
NME[38]
The Times[39]

Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers was released to unanimous acclaim. On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from professional publications, it holds an average score of 100, based on 7 reviews.[30][30][40] On review aggregator AnyDecentMusic? it has a score of 9.6 out of 10.[29]

Ben Bryant of The Independent called the album a "tender opus from the defining poet of his generation", writing, "The rapper's first album in five years is a haunting and surprising meditation on fatherhood and family".[36] In a five-star review for The Guardian, Alexis Petridis praised the themes, lyricism and style.[34]

Track listing

Volume 1 – Big Steppers
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
1."United in Grief"
4:15
2."N95"
3:15
3."Worldwide Steppers"
3:23
4."Die Hard" (with Blxst and Amanda Reifer)
3:59
5."Father Time" (featuring Sampha)
  • Sounwave
  • DJ Dahi
  • Beach Noise
  • Bekon
  • Timothy
  • Grandmaster Vic
3:42
6."Rich (Interlude)"
Timothy1:43
7."Rich Spirit"
  • Duckworth
  • Dew
  • Spears
  • Natche
  • Frano Huett
  • A. Thomas
  • D. Dennis
  • G. Jackson
  • M. Hall
  • Sounwave
  • DJ Dahi
  • franO
3:22
8."We Cry Together" (with Taylour Paige)
5:41
9."Purple Hearts" (with Summer Walker and Ghostface Killah)
5:29
Total length:34:49
Volume 2 – Mr. Morale
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
1."Count Me Out"
  • Duckworth
  • Dew
  • Spears
  • Natche
  • Pounds
  • OKLAMA
  • Sounwave
  • DJ Dahi
  • J.LBS
  • Maxey[b]
4:43
2."Crown"
  • Duckworth
  • Dew
  • Timothy
Timothy4:24
3."Silent Hill" (with Kodak Black)
  • Duckworth
  • Kapri
  • Samuels
  • Spears
  • Sweet
  • Schaeffer
  • Jo. Kosich
  • Ja. Kosich
  • Boi-1da
  • Sounwave
  • Sweet
  • Beach Noise[b]
3:40
4."Savior (Interlude)"
  • Duckworth
  • Carter
  • Spears
  • Pounds
  • OKLAMA
  • Sounwave
  • J.LBS
2:32
5."Savior" (with Baby Keem and Sam Dew)
3:44
6."Auntie Diaries"
  • Bekon
  • The Donuts
  • Balmoris
  • Beach Noise[b]
4:41
7."Mr. Morale" (with Tanna Leone)Williams3:30
8."Mother I Sober" (featuring Beth Gibbons)
  • Sounwave
  • Bekon
  • J.LBS
6:46
9."Mirror"
  • Duckworth
  • Krieger
  • Stuart Johnson
  • Spears
  • Natche
  • Tannenbaum
  • Mehlenbacher
  • Gherman
  • Balmoris
  • Maxey
  • Sounwave
  • DJ Dahi
  • Bekon
  • The Donuts
  • Balmoris
  • Maxey[b]
4:16
Total length:38:16
  • ^[a] signifies a co-producer
  • ^[b] signifies an additional producer

Notes

  • "United in Grief", "Father Time", and "We Cry Together" features narration by Whitney Alford, Lamar's wife[10]
  • "Worldwide Steppers" and "Mirror" feature additional vocals by Kodak Black
  • "Rich (Interlude)" features uncredited vocals by Kodak Black
  • "Rich Spirit" features background vocals by Sam Dew
  • "Count Me Out" features background vocals by DJ Dahi
  • "Count Me Out", "Savior (Interlude)", and "Mr. Morale" features narration by Eckhart Tolle[11]
  • "Savior (Interlude)" features uncredited vocals by Baby Keem
  • "Auntie Diaries" and "Mirror" features background vocals by Bekon
  • "Mr. Morale" features additional vocals by Sam Dew

Sample Credits

  • "Worldwide Steppers" contains samples of "Break Through", written by Vincent Crane and Pat Darnell, as performed by The Funkees; and samples of "Look Up Look Down", written by Phillip Hunt, as performed by Soft Touch.
  • "Die Hard" contains a sample of "Remember the Rain" written by Marvin Smith, as performed by Kadhja Bonet.
  • "We Cry Together" contains a sample of "June", written by Florence Welch, as performed by Florence + The Machine.[10]

Personnel

Musicians[41]

  • Amanda Reifer – vocals (4)
  • Anneston Pisayavong – choir (10)
  • Baby Keem – drums (4), vocals (13, 14)
  • Bekon – bass (5, 18), keyboards (5, 15, 18), strings (15, 18), background vocals (15, 18), percussion (18)
  • Beth Gibbons – featured vocals (17)
  • Blxst – vocals (4)
  • Brenton Calvin Lockett – choir (10)
  • Bryce Xavier – choir (10)
  • Daniel Krieger – guitar (15, 18)
  • Danny McKinnon – guitar (10), bass (10)
  • Denise Stoudmire – choir arranger (10)
  • DJ Dahi – programming (5, 7, 18), bass (7), percussion (7), drums (10, 18), background vocals (10)
  • Duval Timothy – piano (1, 5, 6, 11)
  • Eckhart Tolle – narration (10, 13, 16)
  • Florence Welch – background vocals (8)
  • Frano – keyboards (7), programming (7)
  • Ghostface Killah – vocals (9)
  • Grandmaster Vic – strings (4, 17)
  • Homer Steinweiss – drums (15)
  • Kendrick Lamar – vocals (1-12, 14-18)
  • Kodak Black – narration (3, 18), vocals (6, 12)
  • Immryr LoBasso Spencer – choir (10)
  • Jaheen King Tombs – choir (10)
  • J.LBS – bass (10)
  • Mike Larsen – programming (16)
  • Paris Burton – choir (10)
  • Sam Dew – background vocals (7), vocals (14)
  • Sampha – featured vocals (5)
  • Sounwave – drums (5, 7, 18), programming (18)
  • Stuart Johnson – percussion (18)
  • Summer Walker – vocals (9)
  • Sydney Bourne – choir (10)
  • Tanna Leone – vocals (16)
  • Taylour Paige – vocals (8)
  • Thundercat – bass (4, 17)
  • Whitney Alford – narration (1, 5, 8)

Technical[41]

  • Ray Charles Brown Jr. – engineer (1, 3-9, 11-15, 17)
  • Jonathan Turner – engineer (1, 3-7, 9, 11-13, 15, 17-18)
  • Matt Schaeffer (Beach Noise) – engineer (1-5, 8-9, 12, 15, 17-18)
  • Johnny Kosich (Beach Noise) – engineer (1, 4-5, 15)
  • James Hunt – engineer (5, 14, 15)
  • Derek Garcia – engineer (6, 8, 12)
  • Raymond J Scavo III – engineer (9)
  • Andrew Boyd – engineer (14), assistant engineer (1-12, 15-17)
  • Chad Gordon – engineer (15)
  • Matt Anthony – engineer (15, 18)
  • Sedrick Moore II – assistant engineer (1, 2, 5)
  • Wesley Seidman – assistant engineer (4, 12, 18)
  • Brandon Wood – assistant engineer (5, 8)
  • Kaushlesh "Gary" Purohit – assistant engineer (5)
  • Rob Bisel – assistant engineer (5)
  • Tristan Bott – assistant engineer (5, 8)
  • Erwing Olivares – assistant engineer (6)
  • Logan Haynes – assistant engineer (8)
  • Evan Fulcher – assistant engineer (9)
  • Johnny Morgan – assistant engineer (11, 18)
  • Hannah Kacmarsky – assistant engineer (15)
  • Thomas Warren – assistant engineer (15)
  • Zach Acosta – assistant engineer (15)
  • Manny Marroquin – mixer (1-7, 9-18)
  • Cyrus "NOIS" Taghipour – mixer (8)
  • Derek "MixsedByAli" Ali – mixer (8)
  • Anthony Vilchis – assistant mixer (1-7, 9-18)
  • Trey Station – assistant mixer (1-7, 9-18)
  • Zach Pereyra – assistant mixer (1-7, 9-18)
  • Brandon Blatz – assistant mixer (8)
  • Curtis "Sircuit" Bye – assistant mixer (8)
  • Michelle Mancini – mastering

A&R[41]

  • Brock Korsan (pgLang) – A&R
  • Kevin Rodriguez (pgLang) – A&R
  • Juanita "Niya" Morton (pgLang) – A&R Coordinator

References

  1. ^ Coleman II, C. Vernon (April 18, 2022). "Kendrick Lamar Appears to Announce New Album Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers". XXL Mag. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  2. ^ "KENDRICK LAMAR IS A NEW HEADLINER AT ROSKILDE FESTIVAL". Roskilde Festival. December 30, 2020. Retrieved January 4, 2021.
  3. ^ Richards, Will (December 31, 2020). "Kendrick Lamar has 'new material' dropping soon, say Roskilde Festival". NME. Retrieved January 4, 2021.
  4. ^ "MixedByAli Talks Kendrick's New Sound and Plans for His Audio EngineEar Program". Complex Networks. April 14, 2021. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  5. ^ Okon, Wongo (April 14, 2021). "Kendrick Lamar's Engineer, MixedByAli, Sheds Some Light on the Rapper's Upcoming Album". UPROXX. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  6. ^ "nu thoughts". oklama.com. Archived from the original on August 20, 2021. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  7. ^ Bowenbank, Starr (January 27, 2022). "Rihanna, Ye, Kendrick Lamar & More: Which 2022 Hip-Hop/R&B Album Are You Most Excited About? Vote!". Billboard. Retrieved January 29, 2022.
  8. ^ a b c d Sisario, Ben (May 13, 2022). "Kendrick Lamar Returns With 'Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers'". The New York Times. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  9. ^ a b c d Cills, Hazel; Pointer, Ashley (May 13, 2022). "Kendrick Lamar returns, 5 years later and a world away". NPR. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  10. ^ a b c Bloom, Madison; Monroe, Jazz (May 13, 2022). "Kendrick Lamar Releases New Album Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers: Listen and Read the Full Credits". Pitchfork. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  11. ^ a b Wilson, Shania (May 13, 2022). "Eckhart Tolle feature on Kendrick Lamar's new album is a gamechanger". The Focus. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  12. ^ "Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is Kendrick Lamar's New Testament". The Line of Best Fit. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  13. ^ "Listen to Kendrick Lamar's long-awaited 'Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers'". NME. May 13, 2022. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  14. ^ Daramola, Israel (May 13, 2022). "On 'Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers,' Kendrick Lamar Has Never Sounded So Uneasy". The Daily Beast. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  15. ^ a b Aswad, Jem (May 12, 2022). "Kendrick Lamar Finally Drops His Fifth Album: 'Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers'". Variety. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  16. ^ Richie, Matthew (May 13, 2022). ""Mother I Sober" [ft. Beth Gibbons]". Pitchfork. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  17. ^ Kendrick Lamar – N95, retrieved May 14, 2022
  18. ^ Reeves, Mosi (May 13, 2022). "Kendrick Lamar's 'Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers': 5 Things We Learned". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  19. ^ Andrew, Scottie (May 13, 2022). "Kendrick Lamar raps about trans relatives in a new song sparking both praise and criticism". CNN. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  20. ^ Monroe, Jazz (April 18, 2022). "Kendrick Lamar Announces New Album Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers". Pitchfork. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  21. ^ "step". oklama.com. Archived from the original on April 18, 2022. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  22. ^ Bustard, Andy (April 20, 2022). "Kendrick Lamar Sparks 'The Heart Part 5' Excitement Amid New Album Rollout". HipHopDX. Retrieved May 8, 2022.
  23. ^ "master". oklama.com. Archived from the original on May 4, 2022. Retrieved May 4, 2022.
  24. ^ Apple Music [@AppleMusic] (May 8, 2022). "The return of @kendricklamar. "The Heart Part 5" is streaming now. apple.co/TheHeartPart5" (Tweet). Retrieved May 8, 2022 – via Twitter.
  25. ^ "Kendrick Lamar - The Heart Part 5". Retrieved May 9, 2022 – via YouTube.
  26. ^ Hussey, Allison (May 11, 2022). "Kendrick Lamar Reveals Cover Artwork for New Album Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers". Pitchfork. Retrieved May 12, 2022.
  27. ^ Legaspi, Althea (May 11, 2022). "Kendrick Lamar Shares Striking New Album Art for 'Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 12, 2022.
  28. ^ Kendrick Lamar [@kendricklamar] (May 13, 2022). "The Big Steppers Tour oklama.com/tour" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  29. ^ a b "Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers by Kendrick Lamar reviews | Any Decent Music". AnyDecentMusic?. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  30. ^ a b c "Critic Reviews for Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers by Kendrick Lamar". Metacritic. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  31. ^ Murray, Robin (May 13, 2022). "Kendrick Lamar – Mr Morale & The Big Steppers". Clash. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  32. ^ McCormick, Neil; Hall, James; Lloyd, Kate; Pritchard, Will (May 13, 2022). "Florence gets Dance Fever, the Stones open their archive – the week's best albums". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on May 13, 2022. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  33. ^ Smyth, David (May 13, 2022). "Kendrick Lamar – Mr Morale & The Big Steppers review: Still light years ahead of the game". Evening Standard. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  34. ^ a b Petridis, Alexis (May 13, 2022). "Kendrick Lamar: Mr Morale & the Big Steppers review – rap genius bares heart, soul and mind". The Guardian. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  35. ^ Solomon, Kate (May 13, 2022). "Kendrick Lamar – Mr Morale & The Big Steppers, review: On a near-perfect album, the rapper finds peace". i. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  36. ^ a b Bryant, Ben (May 13, 2022). "Kendrick Lamar's Mr Morale and the Bigsteppers is a tender, delicate opus – review". The Independent. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  37. ^ Loftin, Steve (May 13, 2022). "Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is Kendrick Lamar's New Testament". The Line of Best Fit. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  38. ^ Williams, Kyann-Sian (May 13, 2022). "Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers review: a cathartic, soul-bearing autobiography". NME. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  39. ^ Hodgkinson, Will (May 13, 2022). "Kendrick Lamar: Mr Morale & the Big Steppers review – a complicated, troubled masterpiece". The Times. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  40. ^ "Best Music and Albums for 2022". Metacritic. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  41. ^ a b c Moore, Sam (May 13, 2022). "Here's the full credits for Kendrick Lamar's 'Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers'". NME. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
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