Label: Top Dawg Entertainment/Aftermath Entertainment/Interscope Records/pgLang
Released: May 13

The thrill of today can become a faint whisper tomorrow. Kendrick Lamar’s offerings—particularly those of the last decade—have never known that plight. His projects (which need I remind you include the Pulitzer Prize-winning DAMN., and the canonical good kid, m.A.A.d city), serve as cultural staples many moons later, challenging the ways in which we love and think. With Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, it’s ever clear that, although he is willing to quite literally tap dance to the beat of the drum of what is expected or even demanded of him, Kendrick is not a “Savior.” Instead, he asks, “If I told you who I am, would you use it against me?” The question is, of course, rhetorical, as his acquired wisdom lies in the pursuit of more—personally and professionally—and the willingness to be imperfect in the process makes him all the more human to the listener, which in turn serves as the project’s most enriching quality. After 1,855 days, the GOAT returned with an anarchic collection of songs birthed from a place of sweet self-awareness—both in how he is perceived and who he knows himself to be. On its introductory track, “United in Grief”—a timely and multitude-holding triad of words in and of itself—we hear a poetic unraveling of the Compton-native’s thoughts, which are then further shared unsparingly as the album runs. That grief is later cushioned by the pleasures of having a “Rich Spirit” full of bountiful boundaries and a “Die Hard” essence. In that dance, and the fine balance of being both known and in continued maturation, Kendrick is imperfectly perfect. —Ecleen Luzmila Caraballo