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 results.” 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 loyalty or prestige. of criticism. Even after Lamar’s prolonged absence, “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers” is expected to make a splash on Billboard’s album chart during opening week.
Lamar cemented himself as one of the millennials’ most ambitious rappers with his major-label debut, “good kid, mAAd city” (2012). For his follow-up effort, “To Pimp a Butterfly” (2015), he 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 Times pop music critic Jon Caramanica wrote, includes “Alright,” which became an unofficial Black Lives Matter protest anthem.
His 2017 album “DAMN.” 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.” was cited 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 record company boss Anthony Tiffith (known as Top Dawg) executive produced a companion album to the movie “Black Panther.” One track 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 her work was used without permission in the track’s video; the lawsuit was settled in late 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, teamed up with Las Vegas rapper (and his cousin) Baby Keem for two songs on 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, which put him in the strange position of being the only relatively young man at an old hip-hop music show or, performing songs up to a decade old, perhaps already being a bit of a throwback. the same.
Last Sunday, Lamar released a new music video, “The Heart Part 5,” in advance of Mr. Moral.” 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 Voodoo, a studio of “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 to “The Heart Part 5” have already been scoured for meaning, as has the image Lamar shared Wednesday of the album 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 can 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 instead has initiated 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 sneakers.