With 14 Grammys, 2 No.1s, and 67 other singles hitting the Top 100, Kendrick Lamar is now known as a legend in rap. Whenever rap is discussed amongst critics, a common consensus is that Kendrick Lamar is one of the best rappers in our generation. And with his latest album drop, Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers, it has been proven once again.
Growing up in Compton, California, surrounded by gang violence and poverty, Kendrick used that as inspiration to then fuel his writing in his first series of mixtapes back in the early 2000s. These releases would soon pique the interest of Dr. Dre, propelling his career.
This year, Lamar released the newest addition to his discography, Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers. The album's lyrics go into depth about how he dealt with LGBT issues, toxic relationships, family ties, and much more. As an artist himself, Kendrick is known to value genuine expression in music and art in general. This can be seen in his critically acclaimed music video Humble from his album DAMN and even his Super Bowl performance this year of the same song.
Like his other albums, Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers is a personal look into Lamar's thought process and life. Having songs such as United in Grief, We Cry Together, and the slightly controversial Aunties Diaries, we get a glimpse of how he handles life's obstacles coming from a young black man in America.
Specifically looking at Auntie Diaries, Lamar discusses how his uncle and other family members are transgender. He describes how he as a young boy navigated the topic of LGBT+ issues while repeatedly using the f-slur. Once again, this opens Pandora’s Box that is the discussion of how the black community interacts with members of the queer community.
While the approach was clumsy, the ripple effects that it had were substantial. A queer teenager on Instagram posted saying, “After listening to the album myself as a queer youth, I believe that the use of the f-slur was justified in this instance… with the context given it makes sense,” while another gave a different point of view saying, “It doesn’t matter in which context he said the slur, he isn’t queer in any way so he shouldn’t have said it.”
Having black people really rethink the way they look at queer people and slurs with the last lyric be the open-ended statement, “‘F*****, f*****, f*****,’ we can say it together/‘But only if you let a white girl say, 'N****.’”
This album and others have led Kendrick Lamar to be seen as a beacon in the black community when it comes to social issues. He never fails to speak on issues that affect black people, especially in his music. An example of this would be in Beyonce’s song Freedom. Here, Lamar couples his genius writing style and his social activism with a “lyrical countdown” that lists different situations that he has faced related to racism.
When it comes to the impact of his albums like DAMN, To Pimp a Butterfly, and good kid, m.A.A.d city, etc, they all speak to a certain experience that is very familiar. From his discussions of social issues to masculinity he covers a vast variety of topics in an artistic fashion that all contribute to his status as one of the greatest rappers today.