After five years of speculation surrounding when he would make his return, Kendrick Lamar has delivered his long-awaited fifth studio album, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, a robust body of work that finds the acclaimed wordsmith further adding to his legacy. Following in the footsteps of rap legends before him, Lamar adds the vaunted double album to his resume, as the two-disc effort includes nine songs apiece, with the Compton native examining the state of the world around him.
Filled with autobiographical accounts from his past that have manifested in the inner conflict he’s expounded on throughout his career, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is an impressive addition to what has quickly become one of the stronger discographies in Hip-Hop history.
After doing a deep dive into the album, VIBE highlights and ranks the seven best songs on Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers that we believe will stand the test of time.
"Purple Hearts" Feat. Summer Walker And Ghostface Killah
Kendrick Lamar teams up with R&B songstress Summer Walker and rap legend Ghostface Killah for this svelte offering, in which the trio explores matters of the heart atop a regal backdrop. Produced by DJ Khalil, Beach Noise, J.LBS, and Sounwave, the track finds K.Dot spitting his truth while encouraging the stragglers along lovers’ lane to continue in their pursuit of companionship. Bolstered by Summer Walker’s syrupy vocals and Ghostface’s show-stopping performance, this groove lightens the mood and offsets the album’s insular vibes with a bit of sensuality.
"Savior" Feat. Baby Keem And Sam Dew
Baby Keem and Sam Dew pop up alongside Lamar on this standout from Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, which finds the pgLang rep speaking on racial matters, the public response to the COVID-19 crisis, and vaccine mandates. Revealing his own battle with COVID, Lamar weighs in on figures like Kyrie Irving’s decision to remain unvaccinated and controversial views surrounding the vaccine. Shunning the role of “savior” that has been thrust upon himself and other celebrities, the rapper highlights his own flaws in hopes of persuading listeners to abide by their own moral codes.
"United In Grief"
Kendrick Lamar opens his latest album on an explosive note, as he examines the coping mechanisms minorities lean on in times of tragedy and turmoil. Turning the mirror on himself, Lamar’s admission of attempting to numb his own sorrows with the comfort of material possessions is a familiar theme in his music, as he continues to grapple with inner demons along the road to success.
"We Cry Together" Feat. Taylour Paige
A vocal sample lifted from Florence + the Machine’s 2018 song “June” melts away into a sparse amalgam of drums and piano keys on this intense selection, which brings listeners into the eye of the storm of a romantic quarrel. The track features an appearance from Taylour Paige, who delivers an animated performance as she assumes the role of a woman fed up while playing opposite Lamar, with each escalating the confrontation with every insult levied. Bringing to mind the classic exchange between Jody and Yvette in the 2001 film Baby Boy, Lamar and Paige air things out before coming together as one, encapsulating the nature of a toxic relationship.
K.Dot gets loose atop a booming track courtesy of producers Baby Keem, Jahaan Sweet, Boi-1da, and Sounwave, who team up to craft a frantic instrumental over which he stacks quotables at a rapid clip. Scoffing at the frivolous and fickle nature of the public, Lamar strings together a succession of stream-of-consciousness flows on this track inspired by the end of global quarantines and the signature piece of COVID-19 PPE.
"Mother I Sober" Feat. Beth Gibbons
Lamar expounds on his struggles in this terse, piano-driven cut, as he recalls various traumatic experiences throughout his life that fueled his addiction. Featuring vocalist Beth Gibbons, this somber number finds Lamar making revelations about his family, such as his mother being a survivor of physical and sexual abuse and how it resulted in turmoil within his own life. Admitting to his own transgressions as a partner and past sexual addiction, Lamar comes face to face with all of the generations that have afflicted him, resulting in this composition being an instant classic and among the most transparent moments in his career thus far.
"Father Time" Feat. Sampha
Searing violins open this reflective salvo, as the 34-year-old addresses his relationship with his father and bears the scars of the tough love that was fostered within him throughout his life. Featuring a rare appearance from Sampha, who lends his feathery tenor on the hook, this standout provides additional context to the makings of Kendrick Lamar as a man and gives an alternate view of the portrayal of fathers within the Black community and the impact they have on their children’s lives.