Kendrick Lamar’s Video Shows 5 Years In 2 Minutes

The same day his friend and former label-mate Ab-Soul releases his first album in over six years, Kendrick Lamar steps forth with the latest music video from this year’s Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers. The short-notice release is for “Count Me Out,” the opening from the second half of the double LP comes to visual, directed by Kendrick and Dave Free, the two partners at pgLang.

The video deals with therapy, symbolism, and all of the events that led up to the double album. Oscar-winner Helen Mirren plays Lamar’s therapist. The 77-year-old listens as Kendrick discusses a breakthrough. He sits at a piano to reflect while in session. Lamar and the therapist laugh as Kendrick, in character, admits he stole a woman’s parking spot. It may be the only lighthearted moment in the imagery to follow.

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There is then a visual sequence that looks like it is 5 years of Kendrick’s life –the 5 years between the release of his 2017 DAMN. album and this year’s Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers–condensed in a dizzying 2-minute montage. Kendrick is shown in a fast-moving faceless crowd—perhaps looking for his place in the world. Several moments feature Kendrick’s real-life spouse, Whitney, who is very thematically tied to Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers. In one sequence, Whitney is shown holding a mirror to Kendrick, which aligns with the running theme on the album of her being the driving force for him to look at himself through therapy. Interestingly, Kendrick is shown in the mirror wearing the same outfit that he was wearing in the “The Heart Part 5” video” which supports Ambrosia For Heads’ theory that when Kendrick was looking to the side during that video, he was actually looking in the mirror. Immediately after that scene, two bodacious women in lingerie are shown in a bedroom. Immediately thereafter, we see Kendrick in a car, as if he has just left the bedroom, angry with himself. Kendrick references his infidelities throughout Mr. Morale, and perhaps these women exemplify his self-proclaimed addiction.

Later in the visual, Kendrick is shown among the goats, an on-the-nose suggestion to his place among the greatest of all-time MCs, especially as his accompanying lyrics in the moment address his having been in all the magazines.

There are many references on Kendrick’s album about people dancing around their problems. Some have suggested that is the meaning of The Big Steppers. Ambrosia For Heads speculated on its podcast that The Big Steppers portion of the project centered around family. Imagery from the visuals of “Count Me Out” support both of these theories. In a scene in the video, we see ballroom dancers at the bottom of a long, spiraling staircase. Whitney and her children with Kendrick are sitting on the stairs. The steppers are watching their fellow steppers.

One of the more curious moments comes when Kendrick is shown signing a contract in a boardroom. Instead of being happy, he looks forlorn. In the very next scene, he is shown “celebrating” with a fake smile plastered on his face. He lifts a glass of what looks like alcohol to participate in the toast, however, as Kendrick states throughout the album, he is sober and does not partake in drugs and alcohol.

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He wears a bold red at times, surrounded by people in white, paying close attention to him. In one sequence, they hold him tightly, refusing to let him go—despite his cries. Throughout Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, Kendrick articulates his struggles with being seen as Hip-Hop’s “savior” by many. Kendrick is then shown like a demi-god on a hill, however his environs are far from silent, as referenced on the album. 

Other moments from the album also appear in the video. He is shown getting a COVID test. On his song “Savior” he notes that he contracted the disease at some point in the last 3 years, and that he may have not been vaccinated at the time. He rapped in one pertinent stanza, “Then I caught COVID and started to question Kyrie.” Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving very publicly protested getting the vaccine, choosing, instead, to sit out for a large portion of games during the season. A sonogram is shown later, alluding to Kendrick becoming a father—something that happened twice, since 2017’s DAMN.

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The therapist takes it all in. In the side of the display, they watch, observe, and consider. After the sequence ends, she gets back to work. Perhaps this is symbolic of years of therapy, an ongoing process. Kendrick returns to his music—the piano—with the angel beside him. Fans who attended Lamar’s world tour saw that he opened the show by playing the piano. Perhaps, this final scene is another tell about something he added to his life in the last few years.

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Last month, Kendrick’s Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers received eight Grammy nominations, including “Album Of The Year” and “Best Rap Album.” Days later, he released the “Rich Spirit” music vid.

Selections from Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers as well as new music from Ab-Soul is currently on the official Ambrosia For Heads playlist.

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