Kendrick Lamar Explains His Internal Conflict With Releasing Mr. Morale

Kendrick Lamar has been relatively quiet surrounding his 2022 double album, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. A decade after his major label debut, good kid, m.A.A.d city, and over 15 years into a professional recording career, the award-winning music superstar chose now to unpack his most personal collection of songs to date.

In a just-published interview with W magazine’s Briana Younger, the 35-year-old Compton, California MC spoke at length publicly for the first time since the album and its related music videos arrived. “It’s stuff that I’ve written that’s just now seeing daylight, because I wasn’t secure with myself in order to do it,” he admits. “It was really about not being insecure [or perhaps] tormented by opinions.” The album deals with fatherhood, family, infidelity, homophobia, and issues surrounding molestation. While Kendrick has always been a personal songwriter who addressed issues in and around the home, 2022’s double-clip stands apart. “When I did this, it was kind of the marker and the growth of everything I’ve always wanted to say. I think that was really my purpose of writing my way out of things that I was feeling, from the time I was nine years old, all the way up to 35.”

Explaining Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers Albums

In the W conversation, which took place in the back of a Toronto, Ontario restaurant, Kendrick reveals that discussing his career with media has sometimes affected the way he thinks and works. “A lot of times, I’m doing interviews and speaking on the general basis of my childhood, and years later, I see them questions reoccur—maybe on social media, and they pop up and me answering the questions—and I’m like, Damn, the answer was true, but it’s not how I think about it [anymore],” he says, reportedly using the early 2010s Gunplay collaboration “Cartoon & Cereal” as an example. While the pgLang co-founder has grown reclusive to interviews as compared to earlier in his career, he says that those conversations shaped his understanding of himself and experience. “I had to damn near repattern my thoughts to see things that I didn’t necessarily see in those interviews, or just in life in general.”

Notably, Kendrick also positions Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers differently, within one of Hip-Hop’s (and all of music’s) most respected catalogs. “I’ve had rewards for my other albums in different ways, whether it was accolades, whether it was the Pulitzer, whether it was the Grammys,” he shares. “This one is the reward for humanity for me.”

Kendrick Lamar’s New Video Shows A Brutal Argument Unfold

“I’m a private person; it was tough for me,” admits Lamar, in reference to speaking about issues that loved ones may be hearing for the first time—right alongside his millions of fans. “The reason why I had to make that decision, whether they was for or against it, I just didn’t want the influence. I could have cut corners and got flashy with it and worded my words a certain way—nah, I had to be in the rawest, truest form I could possibly be in order for it to be freeing for me, in order for me to have a different outlook and the perspective on people I’m talking to. I had to reap whatever consequences came behind that, and also be compassionate and show empathy if they were hurt by it.” Kendrick adds that if he’d conferred with family, friends, and others, the songs would be skewed by input, reactions, and his own evolving thoughts. Referring to the songs, the MC says, “Them sh*ts would’ve never came out.”

Kendrick sees the outcome of his 2022 work as something that advances the conversation for others, just as it has for him. “That’s the beauty; that’s the best feeling I’ve been getting,” he notes. “It’s like when I be talking to some of my partners that never was able to express themself and communicate—they only knew how to communicate with violence—and for them to call up they moms, call they pops and say, ‘You hurt me, and this pushed me to go stay with my grandma, which my grandma pushed me to stay with my homies.” The artist summarizes, “For them to be able to express that and have that communication is rewarding for me.”

The Game Names His Top 5 L.A. Rap Albums & It’s Hard To Argue Against Him

Notably, as an artist conflicted with the depth and impact of this art, Kendrick reveals what ultimately compelled him to share the material. “When I got to completion and I said, ‘I may or may not put this out; I’m not going to put this out; it’s way too much,’ I thought about my children,” he is quoted as saying, with a smile. Kendrick used the album, including its artwork, to share his evolution as a father of two.

These were private moments to the public, apart from a cryptic 2021 reference in a Grammy-winning collaboration with pgLang artist (and Kendrick cousin) Baby Keem. “I thought about when they turn 21, or they’re older in life, and when I got grandchildren, or if I’m long gone—this can be a prerequisite of how to cope. That’s the beauty of it for me.”

Kendrick Lamar’s New Video From His Album Is Filled With Symbolism

Several selections from Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers are presently on the official Ambrosia For Heads playlist.

#BonusBeat: Ambrosia For Heads’ What’s The Headline podcast offers a comprehensive breakdown of Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, including meanings, themes, and additional context.