Early Thoughts on Kendrick Lamar’s 2022 Album
It has officially been 3 days since King Kendrick delivered his 2022 Double LP: Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. I’ve listened to this album in its entirety 3 times.
Like most fans, I’ve been waiting for this album to drop since he blessed us with DAMN. back in 2017. With other top-tier rappers like J. Cole, Big Sean, Big K.R.I.T., and others dropping albums in the interim, the world still hungered for the voice of our new-age prophet.
And he has delivered.
The Heart Part 5
Mr. Lamar has a pattern of releasing a single from his “The Heart” series to announce the forthcoming of a new project. In signature fashion, fans were elated to taste the bars delivered in The Heart Part 5.
Kendrick raps from the perspective of several fallen heroes of the black community, including himself. The video that accompanies the single starts with a title slide that reads:
“I am. All of us.”
He continues the intro by speaking on how life is about perspective and how each of us may hold a different one.
He is setting us up to remain open-minded. He is asking us to be willing to listen and take things in that we may not normally comprehend, understand or agree with.
I won’t go verse by verse or line by line but we can easily glean that Kendrick has taken the time to examine and dissect the black culture to which he is accustomed. He analyzes how generational curses and trauma are passed off as culture.
He speaks from a place of observation and a desire to improve. The video allows us insight to ideas that correlate with well-known figures in the black community: OJ Simpson, Kanye West, Jussie Smollet, Will Smith, Kobe Bryant, and Nipsey Hussle.
The Heart Part 5 is the perfect intro to the LP that followed. It sets up what I believe to be the theme of the album, Perspective.
The album is separated into 2 sides. Each side contains 9 tracks for a total of 18 songs. While I believe that there is a common theme present throughout the entire project, it’s worth noting that there's a reason for separating the 2.
While the album as a whole is about perspective, the first side appears to be Kendrick’s perspective.
Songs like N95, Father Time, and Rich Spirit confront Kendrick’s personal beliefs. He speaks on hypocritical judgments from those who aren’t in his position. Ultimately he concludes that this is the way things are.
He understands that he cannot hold you to his standard because you aren’t him, and calls out that it’s quite unfair for others to judge him because they are not him.
It’s all very introspective.
- Father Time
- We Cry Together
Side 2 takes a step back and examines things from a wider perspective. Kendrick is acknowledging his place in the zeitgeist on songs like Count Me Out, Crown, and Savior.
In songs like Auntie Diaries and Mother I Sober he takes these wider perspectives and applies them to himself.
If side one is about how Kendrick sees himself, side 2 is about how he wants to be seen. Side 2 is about growth and understanding that as we get older, things change.
It’s up to the individual to acknowledge the shortcomings in their life or thought patterns and make those changes. By sharing these personal thoughts Kendrick invites us to go through a similar path of self-reflection and discovery.
His verses aren’t preachy or judgemental. They are cathartic and self-reflective. They cause you to examine your own life and the way you view certain situations.
In this time of cancel culture and public division, this is exactly what we need.
- Auntie Diaries
- Mr. Morale
Giving Life In Spite of Controversy
It’s a little early to deem this album a classic, but it definitely stands out among Kendrick’s albums.
Personally, I enjoy this project more than his previous work, DAMN. Mr. Morale feels more like a conversation than a monologue. The listener is invited to the conversation to participate.
There are several controversial things presented on this album: relationships with black fathers, relationships with partners, transgender identities, and the appearance of Kodak Black.
Each of the aforementioned topics is difficult to speak on. In the present moment speaking on certain topics critically or working with certain people will get one “canceled”.
Kendrick addressed his opinion on the matter in The Heart Part 5 and again on N95. He feels that sometimes things need to be said and discussions need to happen despite the risk of being “canceled”.
When listening with the correct attitude, one can see that people can grow and mature. Their opinions on life and the things around them can change.
I believe that there will be a section of people who will greatly criticize Kendrick for the way he has decided to deliver his message. However, as an artist, he has the liberty to express these ideas and feelings. His method of delivery is not for everyone and his core fans know that.
If you are a hip-hop fan, I hope that you will allow this album to open the door to conversation. I hope that you will allow this project to give life to the idea of introspection and change.
3 listens was enough to form these initial thoughts but every true Kendrick fan knows that his albums require several listens to understand and dissect the lines.
I hope that my initial thoughts have inspired you to at least give the project a listen.
I would love to know your thoughts on the project in the comments. Let’s talk about it.