What Can We Learn From Mr. Morale & the Big Steepers?


Zobaida Chowdhury, News Reporter

Kendrick Lamar’s fifth studio album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steepers, reached its one year anniversary on May 13, 2023 — an album that marked a major checkpoint in Lamar’s career. After the critical success of Damn and Black Panther’s soundtrack, five years passed without any further news from the rapper. After the pandemic, Kendrick Lamar decided to come clean and radically change the music scene. 

Mr. Morale & the Big Steepers starts off with hauntingly beautiful vocals with, “I wish you a peace of mind in this lifetime.” Lamar recites his life outside of his career making the song grimy and somber. The listener is reminded of the detrimental effects of loss and betrayal. Kendrick continuously recites ‘I grieve different’ as a callout to people who dictate how and when he can grieve. 

“A man who cannot control his emotions is seen as unmanly and a woman turns into a demon when she is hurt. Kendrick does not spare his relatives, too. He calls his relatives out–the ones who spread false narratives. He calls them predators” said Adam McDonald, the founder of JustRandomThings, a music based publishing site. 

Kendrick affronts cancel culture, possession of material goods, and his track record of infidelity in “N95” and “Worldwide Steepers” before transitioning to a more joyful track called “Diehard.” The play on words makes Kendrick a “die hard” for his partner as he wants both of them to confront their demons for a healthier relationship. 

“I really loved the beat to this song, it honestly was my favorite part about it. The melody was great too, I’m not usually into rap, but surprisingly I liked it.” said Jes Weaver, a sophomore at Briar Woods. 

“Rich Spirit” and “We Cry Together” introduces a bleak Lamar who shuts down the glitz and glamor of his life to peek at his rocky relationship and cope with trauma. In the “Rich Spirit” music video, we see a paranoid Lamar, as he talks to his shadow, performs uncomfortable dance moves, and cuts off his phone line. “Rich Spirit” is an artist’s worst nightmare, personified sonically and lyrically. 

Another track from the album, “We Cry together” is supposed to be uncomfortable — it exposes the rawness of a turbulent relationship. The song does not hide the ugly side of dedication and exposes the line between loyalty and manipulation. 

“The crazy part about this joint is that it started with the [music video] first and the music — putting it on the actual album — came after,” said Hollywood Reporter. 

“Purple Heart” concludes Disk 1 of the album, starting with a bouncy rift and the crash symbol of a drum. Kendrick Lamar alludes to God being the only source of love and inner strength. The lyrics “I’m not in the music business, I been in the human business” shows Lamar’s true personality as he constantly contemplates humanity. 

“This was my favorite song and I think I’m going to add it to my future playlists. I really loved the atmosphere that the song set, and I noticed Kendrick composes catchy beats” said Weaver. 

“The more the merrier” is what Kendrick Lamar said when he made Mr. Morale & Big Steppers a double album. “Count Me Out” begins with the same vocals from “United in Grief,” this time the haunting vocals come back reciting,“We may not know which way to go.” Vocalist Lamar enters the stage as he battles his depression and self-guilt and gives a positive outlook on being left out. 

“I feel like Lamar’s storytelling and thought-provoking wordplay creates a compelling and emotionally charged listening experience,” said Tani Sirohi, a sophomore at Briar Woods. 

The allusion towards religions never stops in this album and it is further emphasized by the song “Crown.” On the album cover, Lamar rocks a $3 million Tiffany and Co. silver crown — a direct reference to the suffering of Christ. Kendrick Lamar understands that he needs to give back but he “can’t please everyone” and “can’t [even] please himself”. 

“The crown is a godly representation of hood philosophies told from a digestible youthful lens,” says Kendrick Lamar’s creative collaborator Dave Free on Vogue. 

The most personal and best storytelling songs on the album would be “Auntie Diaries,” “Mr. Morale,” and “Mother I Sober.” Kendrick in his youth witnessed the discrimination against his trans aunt and cousin so he became their closest ally and friend in “Auntie Diaries”. He fights against transphobia from family members and the church and chooses humanity over religion. “Mr. Morale” and “Mother I Sober” confronts the experiences as an African American and being part of a broken generation. While “Mr. Morale’s” themes are vague, Lamar lays his life bare on Mother I Sober. The song got heat from the music community for being too open towards the listeners. However, the backlash conflicts with the message of the song — communication can break the most deep rooted traumas. 

“The music he makes is real, there is no cover up needed so his listeners can learn from his stories,” said Nicolas Jennings, a sophomore at Briar Woods. 

Kendrick Lamar wraps up the album in the best way possible; a reflection on his journey towards healing. Funky, unsteady beats accompanied by violin solos in “Mirror,” gives rise to a new Lamar. A person who is not sorry about choosing himself. The song perfectly transitions to “My Heart Part 5.” The jazz focused song gives the listener a conclusion of every lesson and story on the album.  One year later, Mr. Morale & the Big Steepers is still seen as a blueprint for healing from generational trauma, challenging societal norms, and raising the expectation for the hip hop scene.