The five-year wait for a new album from Kendrick Lamar, the Pulitzer-anointed rapper and voice of a generation, is finally over.
“Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers,” Lamar’s fifth studio LP and one of the most anticipated new albums in years, dropped overnight on digital services, with high hopes from fans and big questions about the next steps in your career.
Lamar, 34, is one of the few major figures in the contemporary music scene where a regular stream of new content is seen as a necessity, one that can keep fans waiting for such a long period without sacrificing fan loyalty. or the prestige of criticism. Even after Lamar’s prolonged absence, “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers” is expected to make a sizable impact on Billboard’s album chart during opening week.
Lamar cemented himself as one of the most ambitious rappers of the millennial generation with his major label debut, “good boy, maad city” (2012). For his follow-up effort, “To Pimp a Butterfly” (2015), she brought in a host of musicians from the fertile Los Angeles jazz scene, including Kamasi Washington and Thundercat. That album, “a work about living under constant racialized surveillance and how that can lead to many kinds of internal monologues, some empowered, some self-deprecating,” as The Times pop music critic Jon Caramanica wroteincludes “Alright,” which became an unofficial Black Lives Matter protest anthem.
His 2017 album, “DAMMIT.,” It won five Grammy Awards, though it lost out for album of the year to Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic.” (The rapper has a total of 14 Grammy Awards.) Lamar, who grew up in Compton, California, and has made the culture and struggles of that area a central part of his music, also became the first rapper to receive the Pulitzer Prize for music. “DAMMIT.” it was aforementioned in 2018 as “a collection of virtuosic songs unified by their vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers poignant vignettes that capture the complexity of modern African-American life.” Lamar embraced the accolade, appearing in concert. with a “Pulitzer Kenny” banner behind him.
Also in 2018, Lamar and his label head, Anthony Tiffith (known as Top Dawg), executive produced a companion album to the movie “Black Panther”. One song from the LP, “All the Stars,” by Lamar and SZA, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Visual artist Lina Iris Viktor sued, saying their work was used without permission in the track video; the the claim was resolved at the end of 2018.
Since that eventful year, Lamar has kept a low public profile, making a handful of guest appearances on other artists’ songs and, last year, teaming up with Las Vegas rapper (and his cousin) Baby Keem for two songs on the Keem’s album “The Melodic Blue,” including the Grammy-winning “Family Ties.” In February, Lamar took the stage at the Super Bowl LVI halftime show alongside Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Eminem, and Mary J. Blige, putting him in the awkward position of being the only relatively young man on a vintage hip-hop show or, performing songs up to a decade old. antiquity, perhaps already being a bit of a throwback himself.
Last Sunday, Lamar released a new music video, “the heart part 5”, as a preview of “Mr. Morals.” It has a spoken prologue that says “life is perspective” and then shows Lamar’s face merging with those of a number of black men of various levels of cultural heroism or controversy: OJ Simpson, Kanye West, Jussie Smollett, Will Smith, Kobe Bryant, Nipsey hustle Deepfake effects were created by deep voodooa studio from “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, which is planning more projects with pgLang, a new company founded by Lamar and longtime collaborator Dave Free.
The lyrics of “The Heart Part 5” have already been scrub by meaning, much like the image Lamar shared on Wednesday of the cover, photographed by Renell Medrano. It shows Lamar, in a crown of thorns, holding a child while a woman on a bed nurses a baby, like an allegorical religious painting.
To some extent, they may also serve as clues to the next stage of Lamar’s career. “Mr. Morale” will be his last album for Top Dawg Entertainment, or TDE, Lamar’s home since the beginning of his career, which has released his music in partnership with Interscope. He hasn’t announced a new record deal, but rather begun new projects with pgLang, which was Announced two years ago as a “multilingual service company” that will work on a variety of creative and commercial projects, from the video for “The Heart Part 5” to a series of new Converse shoes.