I Love Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers


Before I delve into the album, I must mention the website. Seeing for the first time last year started the rollout of the album. Such a simple website, yet I loved it. The black background and the font (in "nu thoughts") were the inspiration for the layout of this website (as of 2022, when this blog was written). By then, I was already unhappy with parts of my old layout, but seeing that simple website was the nail in the coffin. Unfortunately, it seems like the website wasn't used to its full potential. There were unused things like a page full of folders and a grid of folders where each one was a black folder. Clicking on any of the folders led to a 404 page. I think it would've been interesting to see more features added, but at the same time, I like the simplicity of the website. It seems like a very interesting concept and it also allows us to get information from one reputable source rather than social media.

Getting into the album, I had the opportunity to listen to the majority of it with my friends Michael and Andrew. We were all pretty tired, so the first listen through was just getting a feeling of how the album was. When I listened to it again the next morning, I started to see the bigger picture and really started to see the intricacies of the album.

Some key takeaways from the album that I think should be clear are:

Most of what I've been thinking has been expressed by critics and reviewers, so I don't have much to add.

One of my favourite lines on one of my favourite tracks, "Mother I Sober," is "you ain't felt grief/guilt 'til you felt it sober." This line alludes to his song "u," where he's blaming himself for many problems while he's drunk in a hotel room. "u" is a very heart-wrenching song, and to hear him say that only highlights the amount of emotional pain stored in him after all these years.

I remember hearing "Auntie Diaries" and being very conflicted on his usage of the "f-bomb." This song reminded me of another song I once heard called "Woman is the (n word) of the World," written in 1972 by John Lennon of the Beatles. The song is about the unfair treatment of women in the world, similar to the way black people were treated in America at the time. Today, if John Lennon were still alive, he would most definitely not be able to perform it in the same way it was performed in the 70s. I think Kendrick is trying to do the same thing. It doesn't take long for you to see that the f word is used quite liberally in hip hop; however, a lot of people are simply ignorant (or as Kendrick said, "we ain't know better"). If it wasn't for this song, I wouldn't have known what deadnaming was, so I think the song is doing its job very well in terms of educating others.

Before I get to my favorite parts of the album, I want to mention that I didn't love everything. There were many flows and bars that I just didn't like. For example, the first verse of "N95" where he says "Take off" over 10 times in a row, or when he rhymed "brother" with "brother" 7 times in a row in the third verse of "Rich Spirit." "Die Hard" is probably my least favorite track on the album. Nothing about the singing, verses, or production piques my interest that much.

In no particular order, my favorite tracks are "Father Time," "Mother I Sober," "United in Grief," and "Auntie Diaries." "Father Time" gives a vivid picture in my head. It reminds me of the imagery in "DUCKWORTH." "Auntie Diaries" and "Mother I Sober" both start slow and build up musically. I think I'm just a sucker for this type of music, with a slow buildup and a beautiful climax with strings. This leads to why I love "United in Grief." The drums, piano, strings, and 80's synth are so simple yet so effective. It just goes to show the effectiveness of dynamics (volume) in music. It's something that I think is quite overlooked, but in these tracks especially, we can see just how important it is to this album.

Every time I hear these tracks, I feel extremely motivated. I want to create something. I want to make something beautiful, something as amazing as "United in Grief," but I feel like I'm in this creative block that I can't escape. I have ideas, but they all feel half-baked. I want to make YouTube videos; I have the time, resources, and skills to make a video, but the most important aspect of making YouTube videos is missing. I want to feel like Kendrick at the end of the album, but it feels like I'm still in the Steppers half. Sure, I still have about three and a half months left before I have school again, but I also know life happens and things are only going to get harder as summer break continues. Maybe I'm just too ambitious. To be fair, the last three weeks have been pretty productive: I added many features to my "blog engine" and to this website, I made Wallpaper Theme Converter, and I also have been working a bit at my job. Despite that, I'm still very hungry to do more.

All in all, Kendrick's latest album is not his best work. He didn't make the album we all wanted. He didn't make an album that focused on issues that have been happening since 2017. He didn't make an album that will be played on the radio or in barber shops. What he did instead was make an album that came straight from his heart. I love this album. The production is simply beautiful. Some might get tired of its repetition or its lack of timbral changes and overuse of piano and strings, but I love it. I enjoy hearing the music build up as I get deeper into the track as more layers are added. It was amazing hearing Kendrick's progression as he shares his insecurities and doubts with millions across the world. I don't really relate to any of the tracks yet I can't help but enjoy hearing his insight and listening to his growth. This album is pushing me to do better and to be better. I want to make my own Mr. Morale to be proud of. Wish me luck as I continue to look for ideas.