In one of his few conversations about the album, Kendrick delved into the inspiration and intent behind his critically acclaimed fifth LP, on which he wrestled with heavy topics like generational trauma, toxic relationships and his own insecurities and shortcomings.
While previous efforts like good kid, m.A.A.d city, To Pimp a Butterfly and DAMN. have been showered with awards and accolades, the Compton native believes the true measure of Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers‘ success isn’t in industry prizes, but in its impact on listeners.
“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,” Kendrick said. “This one is the reward for humanity for me.”
He added: “That’s the beauty; that’s the best feeling I’ve been getting. 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, which the homies pushed me to…’ For them to be able to express that and have that communication is rewarding for me.”
Elsewhere in his W magazine cover story, Kendrick Lamar explained how fatherhood has changed his outlook on life and helped shape Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers — particularly its vulnerable and confessional content.
“A lot of times, we play with the idea [of unconditional love] and don’t necessarily know if it’s real, until you feel it,” the father of two said. “My children allowed me, in their development as human beings beginning to walk and talk, to remove my ego, to know that my children, too, will have their own independence.
“That allows me to understand the unconditional love on my end — will I allow them to be themselves? Will I allow them to journey off in the world and experience life for what they know of? That’s love, to me. And when I look at that, I try to apply it with how I express myself, how I look at my career, and how I meet other individuals. Am I allowing them to be themselves without any judgment? My children have taught me that.”
Kendrick added: “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. 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 also revealed he decided against consulting his close relatives before putting songs like “Mother I Sober” and “Auntie Diaries” on Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, otherwise “them shits would’ve never came out.”
“I’m a private person; it was tough for me,” he admitted. “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.”