Kendrick Lamar has finally released his new album mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, his last album for Top Dawg Entertainment. Lamar officially announced the record last month with a link to his Oklama website, which revealed the LP title and release date. The new album features an array of notable collaborators such as Beth Gibbons, Summer Walker, Ghostface Killah, Thundercat, Baby Keem, Sampha and others from Portishead. It also features production from Pharrell, Duval Timothy, the Alchemist, Beach Noise, Boi-1da, FNZ, J.LBS, Daniel Tannenbaum and many more. Listen to Kendrick Lamar’s new album mr. Morale & The Big Steppers below. (Pitchfork earns a commission from purchases made through affiliate links on our site.)
Lamar has been teasing his “last TDE album” since last August, when he launched his mysterious Oklama website and released an allusive statement about his next body of work. “I am delighted to be part of such a cultural stamp after 17 years,” he wrote of Top Dawg Entertainment. mr. Morale & The Big Steppers follows his Pulitzer Prize-winning 2017 full-length damn.
Earlier this month, Lamar posted another link to his Oklama site, this time leading to a black folder with a page called “master.” On that page was a photo of a hand holding both a book with Lamar’s name and “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers’ on the cover. Two CDs were kept on top of the book – one with ‘Morale’ and the other with ‘Steppers’, each marked as a master copy.
Less than a week before the release of the new LP, Lamar released “The Heart Part 5”, his first song as lead artist since 2018 and the last in his long-running singles series “The Heart”. Historically, Lamar has shared these tracks as a prelude to a larger project. “Part 5″ arrived with a music video directed by Dave Free and Lamar, in which the rapper’s face turns into deepfakes of OJ Simpson, Will Smith, Jussie Smollett, Kobe Bryant, Kanye West and Nipsey Hussle. The visual opened with this quote attributed to Oklama: “I am. All of us.”
Lamar has since revealed the album artwork for mr. Morale & The Big Steppers: a bleak image shot by Renell Medrano. In the intimate bedroom scene, Lamar wears a crown of thorns while carrying a child whose gaze pierces the camera. In the background, a woman is stuck on an unmade bed with a baby. Lamar, who has a gun conspicuously tucked into his pants, stares out the window, as if wary of threats.