Kendrick Lamar is ‘big stepping’ into uncharted territory

Photo courtesy of Variety

Off the heels of his final TDE album ‘Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers,’ we asked ourselves how will K-Dot’s next chapter define the future of his legacy?

Fear not, because Kendrick Lamar is back. Whether it be the internal and external struggles he discusses on “FEAR” or the “born sinner” he portrays himself to be on “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe,” K-Dot’s evolution as one of hip-hop’s premier pens has been a true story of manifest destiny.

Bred from the streets of Compton, California, “it was always me vs. the world, until I found it was me vs. me,” the “DUCKWORTH” lyricist alludes to on DAMN. — his last full-length project he gifted to the game in 2017. Widely revered as the greatest rapper alive by legions of rap fans, both new and old, K-Dot touts a legendary catalog of hits to back up his undisputed GOAT status. His track record speaks for itself, as Kenny’s influence on modern hip-hop — and music itself — is largely incalculable due to his humble, yet larger-than-life aura. Stemming from his deep-rooted quips about struggle, strife, love and community — all instilling a direct sense of realness into the listener — Kendrick doesn’t rap, he preaches — evoking a kaleidoscope of heightened emotion on every track he touches. His music has changed lives, ignited change and still is a beckoning rally cry for systematic injustice. The Grammy-winning To Pimp A Butterfly only strengthened K-Dot’s case as one of the most prolifically profound voices in music history — bolstering the message his debut album good kid m.A.A.d. city initially shined a light on.

In the years that followed Lamar’s last LP, “nu thoughts” swarmed his psyche, spending his time in isolation and sometimes going “months” without a phone — disconnected from the world while evolving simultaneously. Where there’s peace, there’s prosperity, as Kendrick now reflects on what matters most: “The life in which my words will land next.” And with those words, his disciples will follow.

“Nu thoughts” was an intrinsic look inside Lamar’s headspace heading into his double album, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. “There’s beauty in completion. And always faith in the unknown,” he wrote in the August 2020 message, referencing his departure from longtime label TDE. Forming his newfound collective pgLang with signees in his cousin Baby Keem and Tanna Leone — who are both featured on his new record — Kendrick is curating a renaissance reliant on both past experiences and efforts for the future. His new album simply bolsters that, offering perhaps his most immersive, personal record to date. However, it’s all therapy for King Kendrick — willingly choosing himself and stepping into the unknown with grace and visions for further success.

Gunning for more full circle moments — and with an untouchable discography behind him — how will “Mr. Morale” elevate himself past his tenure with TDE? — Jon Barlas, Editor


‘Nu thoughts’ from OGM…

“The future of Kendrick Lamar’s legacy now rests on how devoted he is in supporting and expanding pgLang. We have seen him uplift and transform TDE into likely the most talented and visible hip-hop labels and rosters since the mid-2010s, but the fact of the matter was that it was never his label — it was CEO Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith’s. Kendrick’s TDE era defined who he was as an artist and cultural icon, but his pgLang era will define who he is as a leader and a mogul. This next step is similar to J. Cole spearheading Dreamville, Jay-Z launching Roc-A-Fella, Kanye West with G.O.O.D Music, Eminem with Shady Records and so on. Although he is doing it later in his career than his aforementioned rap peers, it will really be one of the first times we’ve seen him take command on a project that is fully his own. Kendrick Lamar was TDE’s star player, but they will still be able to hold themselves up after his departure. pgLang, however, will rely on K-Dot’s presence and leadership, and it takes more than just being a talented musician to pull off an endeavor of this magnitude.” — Thomas Galindo, Staff Writer

“With a vast majority of rappers ‘falling off’ and speaking on the fear of it, thinking about your longevity is key if you want your legacy to live past its expectancy. For Kendrick, he has been in the game for over 10 years and given us classic after classic. As the game changes, Kendrick has evolved alongside it — with the success of DAMN. serving as the ultimate Kendrick album that covers all avenues (mainstream, radio, lyricism, etc), as well as his contributions to Baby Keem’s The Melodic Blue. Kendrick is still hungry and wants to continue to evolve his sound and experiment. As his TDE chapter closes, and he focuses more on pgLang, Kendrick is only going to get better from here. His time away from the spotlight means that he has spent years behind the scenes growing — ready to shake the game up and get people talking again.” — Lee McIntosh, Contributor

“Kendrick Lamar has been touted as one of, if not the best, rap artist of his generation when his major label debut GKMC dropped in 2012. In 2015, he made it clear that he wasn’t just the best of his generation, but one of the best ever when its follow-up To Pimp a Butterfly dropped. He overtly exceeded expectations and managed to create a landmark album that was almost immediately seen as an instant classic. Netting a Pulitzer prize with his 2017 LP DAMN. — the first ever achieved by a rapper – the pgLang founder looks toward brighter days as the leader of a new sound and generation. Set to leave TDE once Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers releases in a few weeks, he closes a chapter that has aided him to achieve the heights he has. For his own legacy, Kendrick has an opportunity that very few rappers have ever been able to garner — potentially solidifying his spot as one of the greatest to ever grace the mic. After dropping several universally-acclaimed albums, one more masterpiece would be enough to seize any debate about his rank among rap’s legends. As Mr Morale & The Big Steppers sets in, Kendrick could perhaps finalize his spot in both rap’s pantheon and as one of the finest artists to ever bless the booth.” — Tyler Zucker, Contributor

“On the surface, Kendrick Lamar is one of the most widely recognized names in hip-hop, rivaling the popularity of legends like Tupac and The Notorious BIG by a small margin. His ability to shift perspectives with increasingly infrequent appearances has impacted not only music, but modern culture as a whole — bringing awareness of sociopolitical issues to audiences far and wide. With the announcement of his latest album, fans are left wondering what lies ahead for Kung Fu Kenny as he begins the rollout to his TDE finale. Now that his five-year hiatus has come to an end, Kendrick is set to usher in the next era of his legendary career with his own label. Alongside his signees to pgLang, hip-hop and music fans alike will just have to wait and see what the lyrical mastermind has in store for his next chapter.” — Nimai Kumar, Staff Writer

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