‘Dear Culture’: Talking Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers’ with Shamira Ibrahim

OPINION: What is the legacy of Kung Fu Kenny’s latest album and how does it fit in his catalog? All that and a Blackfession that’s sure to make folks from New Orleans sit up.

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

It is still Black Music Month in African America and that means Dear Culture is Black (get it, Black…not just…back…I’ll see myself out) with another discussion centering on Black music. 

When Kendrick Lamar, aka Oklama, announced via social media that he had a new album dropping in May, well, the social media lit up. All of a sudden no other album mattered; Kendrick was back, and we were all anticipating what this new album would sound like and what it would be about. At midnight on May 13, 2022, we got our answer: a deeply personal journey into the last five years of Kendrick’s life titled Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. 

As is usual for the first few days following a Kendrick release, the conversations were all over the place. Was the album good? Where does it sit within his legacy? Is it listenable? Did he fail miserably on “Auntie Diaries”? What can we learn about society? Who shot J.R. Ewing? Really, with Kendrick albums, any conversation is possible. Considering that Dear Culture is a podcast about the conversations we’re having in the culture, we thought it only right to bring a conversation about Kendrick’s latest album to the podcast. And the first person I thought to ask about joining me for that conversation was the homie, multi-hyphenate writer/commentator/pop cultural savant, Shamira Ibrahim. 

Just like when she writes lengthy pieces about artists and cultural tentpoles, Shamira broke down Kendrick’s album and where he succeeded and where he may have fallen short of his goals. We also tried to put this album in the proper context: Just who is this album even for and how does that factor into how we should listen to it. Very few folks I know are as insightful with their musical critiques as Shamira, and she showed up and showed out here. 

Until it was time to drop a Blackfession and whew, chile, for as many years as I’ve known her, I had no idea she had this one individual bad musical take. But I suppose when most of your takes are good, you’re allowed a bad one here or there and we ended it all with a Blackamendation, per usual. 

Check out the latest episode of Dear Culture by downloading theGrio’s app or wherever you get your podcasts!

Panama Jackson theGrio.com

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest) but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download here.