Continuing the great tradition of comeback press releases pioneered by Michael Jordan, Kendrick Lamar has announced the release of his long-awaited fifth studio album. In a post on Oklama.com, Lamar, here referring to himself as Oklama, stated that Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers will be out May 13.
Usually known for staying off social media, Lamar’s execution of the announcement was flawless, as he quote-tweeted a Twitter user’s proclamation that “Kendrick Lamar is officially retired” with the Oklama website. Oklama is the same alias Lamar used in August when announcing he was finishing his “final TDE album.”
It has been more than five years since Lamar put out DAMN., which won the Los Angeles rapper his usual amount of critical acclaim, while bringing him to a new commercial peak. (DAMN. and Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City both went triple platinum, but the former spawned Kendrick’s most successful solo single in “Humble.”) It also earned Lamar a Pulitzer Prize, a major milestone for popular music, as it was the first non-jazz, non-classical album to receive the award.
Details about what we now know as Mr. Morale has been scarce. (At least he warned us to “be patient.”) In early 2020, a Billboard editor fueled speculation that the album would draw on rock influences, though those songs may ultimately end up on the cutting room floor. Boi-1da and Cardo, two longtime collaborators of Kendrick’s, posted about the announcement on Instagram, possibly implying they are involved. Boi-1da co-produced “The Blacker the Berry” from To Pimp a Butterfly, while Cardo worked on “untitled 07 | levitate” from untitled unmastered and “God” from DAMN.
Another key question is whether Lamar’s cousin, 21-year-old rising star Baby Keem, will be involved with Mr. Morale. The pair released two songs together in 2021, “Range Brothers” and “Family Ties,” the latter of which netted the Best Rap Performance Grammy. Keem is affiliated with pgLang, Lamar’s two-year-old company that is a hybrid between a record label, a production house, and a creative agency.