Kendrick Lamar, shown here performing at Coachella in 2017, has released his fifth studio album Photo: AFP/File
entertainment

In new album, Kendrick Lamar delivers introspection and biting social critique

6 Comments
By Maggy DONALDSON

Kendrick Lamar, the rapper whose poignant lyricism has soundtracked the Black Lives Matter movement and compelled many to call him the voice of a generation, dropped his first solo album in five years on Friday.

His long-anticipated fifth studio album "Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers" was released to streaming services overnight, and sees Lamar deliver raw self-reflection set against cutting social criticism.

The record is expected to dominate the charts and place the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lamar once again at the center of the American cultural conversation.

Born in Compton, California, the 34-year-old artist is renowned as one of contemporary music's most impactful writers, with his verses offering personal insights while taking on systemic issues such as race relations and structural poverty.

Set to jazz-heavy instrumentals, the Grammy-winner's music has made him a household name and a rare artist whose work is commercially successful but who is not dependent on constantly churning out content.

"Kendrick is a true lyricist," said Lakeyta Bonnette-Bailey, a professor at Georgia State University who has written extensively on the relationships between rap, politics and social justice.

"The way that he uses metaphors, the way that he hits on certain beats with certain verse... it's an entire experience," she told AFP. "He always has something profound to say."

In 2018 Lamar became the first rapper to win the Pulitzer Prize for music, with the award's board saying his album "DAMN." was "unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African American life."

Following that historic win, he curated and contributed a number of songs to the soundtrack for the film "Black Panther," including his Grammy- and Oscar-nominated collaboration with SZA, "All The Stars."

Lamar also featured on a number of songs with fellow artists, including his cousin Baby Keem's latest album.

But his five-year hiatus from producing solo work had some fans speculating about his possible retirement.

Lamar put those rumors to bed last month in announcing his fifth studio record -- an 18-track double album that sees the rapper once more turn his socially conscious gaze to our tumultuous era.

Bonnette-Bailey said Lamar had a talent for "letting people inside his mind," a quality that drew in his listeners.

"(He is) telling stories of his own personal struggles through his music, as well as documenting and telling the story of what is occurring in Black America, or in Compton, or in the whole Black diaspora," she said.

The album's first track "United In Grief" opens with a choir singing the line "I hope you find some peace of mind in this lifetime," before Lamar comes in: "I've been goin' through somethin'."

Throughout the album, Lamar meditates on inner demons, repressed emotions, the struggles of family life and the trappings of fame.

Spoken-word track "We Cry Together," which features actress Taylour Paige, portrays a fighting couple whose biting words see personal anger transition into structural rage.

In "Auntie Diaries," Lamar critiques society's treatment of transgender people, while in "Savior" he warns against turning to celebrities for guidance.

The album's cover is a photo of Lamar wearing a crown of thorns and holding a young child, while a woman who appears to be his partner Whitney Alford is in the background, holding an infant.

In the raw, soulful track "Mother I Sober," Lamar lays bare stories of childhood trauma, infidelity and sexual abuse.

That track ends with a woman's voice telling a child: "You did it, I'm proud of you / You broke a generational curse," before the same choir that began the album closes the track.

"Before I go in fast asleep / Love me for me," they sing. "I bare my soul and now we're free."

© 2022 AFP

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.


6 Comments
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wow Pulitzer Prize ….

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Spoken-word track "We Cry Together," which features actress Taylour Paige, portrays a fighting couple whose biting words see personal anger transition into structural rage.

*"You the reason why strong women ****up / Why they say it's a man world / See, you the reason for Trump / You the reason we overlooked, underpaid, underbooked, under shame," read the lyrics.

I’m always curious about lyrics. Rap, not so much. But I’m not seeing any connection in this snippet.

Lots of blame in those words, and a airplay jump for mentioning Trump. Hey, that rhymes. Maybe I should rap.

Anyway, I wonder if there’s a song on it about the corrupt BLM leader and her $6 mill house purchase with donated funds. Probably not

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Congratulations. I applaud anyone coming out of Compton and being successful, because that's what real success and achievement is

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Maybe I should rap.

Nobody stopping you. Maybe you’ll get famous and then lots of whiny jealous people can post about you on JT someday.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Lots of blame in those words, and a airplay jump for mentioning Trump. Hey, that rhymes. Maybe I should rap.

I love how people think it's so easy to rap. Ever see someone try to do it at Karaoke? It's a nightmare every single time.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

StrangerlandMay 15  11:27 pm JST

Lots of blame in those words, and a airplay jump for mentioning Trump. Hey, that rhymes. Maybe I should rap.

I love how people think it's so easy to rap. Ever see someone try to do it at Karaoke? It's a nightmare every single time.

I (barely) remember the early rappers from 1979 and the early 80s. I saw them on MTV and other networks, they had bands of musicians (no samplings), wore glammy outfits and at the time I just took them to be another form of soul or at least funk. Lyrical themes were about anything but they sure didn't glorify criminal activity or violence, and swearing was minimal. They were fun to listen to and watch, I liked them. Rapping also was/is an art form, made up on the spot with a certain meter and rhyming. In its best form, it's a discipline. In my own navy recruit training company we had about three rappers who'd make up raps about what we were doing.

All those aspects changed when 2 Live Cru put out their first album in late 1986. They go out of their way to be pornographic, offensive and sick. There's still a few that aren't that way. Ice-T uses dirty language and writes about city street gangs but he definitely doesn't glorify their actions, he condemns it. The movie 'Colors' shows that.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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