Kendrick Lamar – “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers” review

It’s really here: The 5th full-length album from Compton emcee, songwriter & actor Kendrick Lamar. Coming up in ‘04 off his debut mixtape Y.H.N.I.C. (Youngest Head N***a in Charge): Hub City Threat (Minor of the Year), he would go on to follow-up with 2 more tapes as well as an eponymous debut EP before breaking out in the fall of 2010 off his 4th mixtape O(verly) D(edicated) & then Section.80 that next summer. Then came him signing to Dr. Dre’s very own Interscope Records imprint Aftermath Entertainment, where Kendrick has made himself home since then. Especially given that good kid, m.A.A.d city & To Pimp a Butterfly have quickly become some of the most beloved hip hop albums ever made in their own rights for good reason whether it be gkmc coming off as a hood movie on wax or TPaB delivering relevant social commentary on top of jazzy, funky production. Kendrick’s last album DAMN. however was definitely his most commercial one yet & I don’t listen to it as much as his other work, but it’s still a great listen nonetheless with it’s phenomenal duality concept. But only 3 months after performing the Super Bowl halftime show, Kendrick has finally returned in the form of the double disc Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers to fulfill his Top Dawg Entertainment contract.

“United in Grief” opens up the album a piano & drum instrumental from oklama himself surprisingly alongside Sounwave amongst a few others talking about mourning differently whereas “N95” works in some synth-horns & hi-hats provided by Boi-1da & Baby Keem to declare that “You’re back outside, but they still lied”, obviously referring to the COVID-19 pandemic. I also loved when he says “You entertain the mediocre, need to stop it. You entertainin’ old friends when they toxic” during the outro. “Worldwide Steppers” takes a more tenser route with co-production from Tae Beast sampling “Breakthrough” by The Funkees talking about how “we’s them killers”, but then the DJ Dahi co-produced “Die Hard” shoots for a more catchier vibe down to the hook shared by both Blxst & especially Amanda Reifer flipping “Remember the Rain” by Kadjha Bonet encouraging listeners to not let your past keep me you from your best.

Meanwhile on “Father Time”, we have Kendrick over some solemn boom bap production sampling “You’re Not There” by Hoskins ‘Ncrowd detailing the relationship that he had with his pops with a killer hook from Sampha & the “Rich” interlude is basically Kodak Black detailing what he learned in the business over some bare pianos. “Rich Spirit” turns things into more spacious territory with some finger-snaps, snares & hi-hats talking about staying strong mentally, but then “We Cry Together” is pretty much Kendrick & Taylour Paige (should’ve been Rico Nasty but it is what it is) re-enacting a legitimate argument that K-Dot had with his fiancée Whitney Alford over an Uncle Al beat flipping “June” by Florence + the Machine. It’s tense, but feels reminiscent to “Kim” off of Eminem’s iconic 2000 masterpiece The Marshall Mathers LP.

Ghostface Killah & Summer Walker tag along for the smooth love ballad “Purple Hearts” to the complete the 1st disc even though I can’t stand the “yeah baby” at the end of the hook & the 1 line on Summer’s verse co-written by fellow Compton representative/Shady Records signee Westside Boogie about eating ass had me rollin’ while “Count Me Out” opens up the 2nd disc by mixing trap influences with some catchy vocal melodies taking aim at his detractors. “Crown” is a vulnerable piano ballad admitting that he can’t please everybody while “Silent Hill” easily has the worst hook on the album, although I appreciate Kendrick & Kodak riding a nocturnal trap beat talking about pushing snakes off them.

Following that, the “Savior” interlude is in the same vein as “Rich” from the string/piano instrumental to Baby Keem recalling some memories that he had growing up while the actual “Savior” song itself has an irresistibly catchy groove to the beat from Cardo asking if one is really happy for him as well as admitting that he started questioning Kyrie after catching the rona. “Auntie Diaries” starts off with a moodier aesthetic before getting triumphant at the end with Kung Fu Kenny discussing his uncle & one of his cousins being transgender while the song “Mr. Morale” opens up about the heavy shit that’s been on his mind as of late over a Pharrell instrumental with a peppy, futuristic tone to it. The penultimate track “Mother I Sober” is definitely the saddest on the album with it’s bare pianos along with former Portishead frontwoman Beth Gibbons on the hook & K-Dot reflecting on witnessing his mom being sexually assaulted when he was 5 years old as “Mirror” finishes the album by apologizing for choosing himself over anyone else over a colorful beat with an empowering hook.

5 long years later & Kendrick is parting TDE with what I consider to be hip hop’s best double album since Big K.R.I.T. dropped 4eva’s a Mighty Long Time only 6 months after DAMN. came out. Hell, I find Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers to be superior to it’s predecessor because I really admire that he decided to come back after all this time to reflect on his life past & present over production mixing together it’s more trappy, poppier cuts with the politically charged jazz rap from the greatest hip hop album of the 2010s even down to the latter’s experimental, neo-soul undertones.

Score: 4.5/5

ScHoolboy Q – “CrasH Talk” review

ScHoolboy Q is a 32 year old rapper from SoutH Los Angeles, California wHo came up at tHe beginning of tHe decade as 1/4 of Black Hippy. He released His first 2 albums Setbacks and Habits & Contradictions independently, but it wouldn’t be until 2014 tHat He would make His major label debut witH Oxymoron. THis would be followed up witH Blank Face LP a couple years later, wHicH I personally consider to be Q’s best work yet. However, 3 years Have passed & He’s now returning witH His 5tH full-lengtH album.

THe opener “Gang Gang” details His drug dealing past over an eerie trap beat from DJ Fu wHile tHe next song “Tales” takes a look back at Q’s criminal past over a somber DJ DaHi & Jake One instrumental. THe track “CHopstix” is a painfully boring “club banger” if you wanna call it tHat & even tHougH I do enjoy tHe gritty lyricism on “Numb Numb Juice”, it sounds unfinisHed & tHe beat is dime a dozen. THe track “Drunk” is a moody alcohol antHem wHile tHe song “Lies” witH YG takes a jab at tHe people wHo’ve said false tHings about tHem over an atmospheric beat from Sounwave. THe track “5200” gets murderous over a vibrant beat tHat doesn’t quite matcH tHe lyricism wHile tHe song “Black Folk” is a jab at an unnamed fraud over a cloudy beat.

THe track “Floating” witH 21 Savage talks about being on drugs over a murky beat wHile tHe song “Dangerous” describes the famous lifestyle over a psychedelic instumental. THe track “Die wit ‘Em” gets murderous over a monstrous Cardo beat wHile tHe song “CrasH” talks about going on over a Boi-1da instrumental tHat cHops & screws PRHyme’s “Boom”. THe penultimate track “Water” witH Lil Baby is an awkward brag despite tHe godly feeling in Cardo’s production & tHen tHe album finisHes witH “Attention”, wHere Q talks about praise & passion over a decent boom bap beat.

I don’t know what else to say, this is EXACTLY what I expected. It’s a lot more commercial which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it sounds just as forced as Jay Rock’s last album Redemption was.

Score: 2.5/5

Jay Rock – “Redemption” review

With Top Dawg Entertainment’s ongoing Championship Tour wrapping up this weekend, it’s only right for Black Hippy member Jay Rock to deliver his highly anticipated 3rd full-length album.

The album begins with “The Bloodiest,” where he reflects about growing up in Watts an eerie beat from Boi-1da, Allen Ritter & Jake One. The next track “For What It’s Worth” talks about murdering someone as well as having sex with this woman even though he knows that she ain’t right over a smooth beat from Sounwave while the song “Knock It Off” is a warning to everyone who’s trying to be him over a laidback trap beat. However, the flow doesn’t really do anything for me on this one. The track “ES Tales” talks about going back to the projects over a sinister beat while the song “Rotation 112th” grittily talks about gang life & the trap beat on here suits it pretty while. The track “Tap Out” is of course a sex tune with a generic beat & a decent Jeremih hook while the song “OSOM” with J. Cole & SiR tells the listeners that they’re living life like he’s runnin’ out of time over a gloomy trap beat.

The track “King’s Dead” originally appeared in the Black Panther soundtrack earlier this year & I’m actually upset they kept Future’s verse on there & removed Kendrick Lamar’s. On the other hand: the song “Troopers” brags about his crew, but the Cardo production sounds vaguely similar to his instrumental on “THat Part” off of ScHoolboy Q’s last album Blank Face LP. The track “Broke+-“ is of course about money over a somber instrumental while the song “Wow” makes up for “King’s Dead” by flawlessly displaying the chemistry between Jay & Kendrick over a bouncy woodwind-infused trap beat from Hit-Boy. The title track lyrically reminds me of “Start from Scratch” by The Game over a beautiful piano instrumental & the SZA hook is very pretty. The closer “WIN” has a triumphant trap beat & I do like the delivery, but it sounds half-written & the hook is very tedious. Also as much as I love Kendrick, his constant adlibs on this joint are too much.

I already knew going into this that it was pretty much gonna be Jay Rock’s DAMN. & while it’s not bad, it could’ve been much better. He sounds a lot more energetic on here than he was on his last 2 albums & the content is mostly on par as well, but a lot of these trappy instrumentals are hit or miss with me to be quite honest.

Score: 3/5

Kendrick Lamar – “DAMN.” review


With his magnum opus To Pimp a Butterfly celebrating it’s 2 year anniversary last month, Black Hippy member Kendrick Lamar has now delivered his 4th full-length album with the whole world watching. The opening track “BLOOD.” starts off with some harmonious choir vocals, but then we hear some dramatic strings & Kendrick recalling a story of a blind woman shooting him after trying to help her. The second track “DNA.” talks about his heritage & while the beat starts off with some heavy bass & a guitar that’s somewhat buried in the mix, it then changes to some hard hitting drums & a vocal sample. Seriously, hearing this will make you get wild. The track “YAH.” has a mellow instrumental & it sees Kendrick melodically talking about following his intuition. The blatant jab at FOX News reporter Geraldo Rivera at the beginning of the 2nd & final verse of the song was well deserved, too. The song “ELEMENT.” is basically about how he’ll always stand strong at what he does & the vocal sample on here is haunting as Hell. The track “FEEL.” vents about a number of different emotions over a wavy vocal sample & some keyboards. The song “LOYALTY.” is a duet with Rihanna about just that & the reversed, sped-up Bruno Mars sample that can be heard from start to finish was really cool. The track “PRIDE.” is Kendrick talking about what he would probably be like in a perfect world over a psychedelic instrumental from Internet guitarist Steve Lacy. We get some constant voice pitch changing during the first verse, but then second verse is just monotoned. The album’s lead single “HUMBLE.” sees Kendrick telling everyone to be humble to him over some ominous keys & even though I wasn’t all too crazy about it when it first came out a couple weeks ago like quite a few people were, I will admit that it has grown on me. The song “LUST.” has a melancholy beat from BADBADNOTGOOD & while it starts off by going into the mind of a woman living in the hood, Kendrick then gets introspective about post-fame life as well as how Americans protested & eventually went back to living their regular lives as a result of Donald Trump being elected our current president back in November. I can absolutely appreciate Kendrick dedicating the track “LOVE.” to his fiancé Whitney Alford, but the hook from Zacari sounds exactly like The Weeknd & it just comes off as very annoying. The song “XXX.” with U2 (albeit minus The Edge) starts off Kendrick aggressively going in while on the phone with a friend coming to him after his son died, but then he somberly talks about never doubting Barack ever again now that we have Donald Trump as our current president. I also really love how the beat during the first verse has some explosive bass as well as police sirens, but then it transitions into some drumming provided by Larry Mullen Jr. as well as some relaxing piano keys. Also, can’t forget about the beautiful Bono hook on here either. I’m not gonna lie, this song really makes me want U2 to drop Songs of Experience later this year. The track “FEAR.” vividly recalls 3 fearful moments when Kendrick was 3, 17 & 27 over a gloomy beat from The Alchemist enhanced by a soul sample. The penultimate track “GOD.” is basically Kendrick saying he feels like God with all the success he has seen over the years over some spacey production, but the delivery during the hook & the first verse was just alright. The album closes out with “DUCKWORTH.”, where Kendrick tells a story about Top Dawg Entertainment founder Anthony Tiffith almost killed Kendrick’s father over a soulful instrumental from 9th Wonder & the beat change about halfway through the track is NASTY! While I’ve been hearing some people saying they were expecting this to better or worse than To Pimp a Butterfly, all I wanted from him was to put out a good album & that’s EXACTLY what I got on here. The Kid Capri intros that you’ll hear on a few tracks give me a nice throwback feeling & while I’m not gonna deny that it’s more commercial than his last 2 albums, but there are only a few moments on the album where it actually bugs me. Despite these few weak moments, Kendrick has shown once again why he’s my favorite MC in this current generation

Score: 4/5