• Eladio Polanco

Mr. Morale, The Big Steppers & Our Reactionary Culture

After listening to 73 minutes of an artist pouring his heart and soul into an album, that was the takeaway?

Right after listening to Kendrick Lamar's highly anticipated album Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, the first thing I did was go on Twitter and see what everyone thought of it. I was surprised to see a couple of people already having the sentiment of "Okay... let's just move on from that" only an hour after it came out. I was shocked, as I was still reeling from how great I thought the album was on first listen. Now I wanted to find out exactly why people did not like it.

That's when I saw this tweet:

Seeing this made me feel very defensive. It took me a while to even comprehend what this was trying to say. Actually, I knew exactly what it was saying, but I couldn't understand why.


How could you even compare the two? Did they hear the same song I did? Kendrick was clearly in support of the trans community, right? Dave Chappelle came off very transphobic in that special, did Kendrick come off the same here? Did I miss something with the song? Is this meant to be a silly joke? Ok yeah it's kinda funny haha but no really, was Kendrick actually being transphobic?


My mind was racing with questions to the point where I just said fuck it, let me just fall asleep. And even when I was in bed, all I could think about was why am I feeling so strongly about this?


I woke up, and the first thing still on my mind was this album. I immediately took to Twitter and started reading some more reactions. It was when I read my friend Ghais Guevara's thoughts on the album that I understood why people did not like it. And I honestly couldn't believe it. So you're telling me, people are outright dismissing this album because he mentioned topics like the use of the F word, R. Kelly, cancel culture, trans issues, etc?


This is why that tweet bothered me so much. After listening to 73 minutes of an artist pouring his heart and soul into an album, that was the takeaway? After listening to 73 minutes of a man exercising his demons, finally breaking his own generational curses, that was the takeaway? After listening to 73 minutes of a person finally accepting himself... that was the takeaway?


It speaks to a reactionary culture that has only been exacerbated with social media. I'm realizing now that these places aren't made for thoughtful conversations, only for witty remarks and pantomiming outrage. Now, I say all this at the risk of sounding like an aforementioned close-minded comedian, so let me add in more nuance.


I do believe that the problematic behaviors that get picked apart and criticized on places like Twitter come from good intentions. It's a balancing of the scales, so to speak. There has been so much injustice for so long, the only way to truly combat it nowadays is to overcorrect. Even if certain pieces of art or people get caught in the crossfire.


And of course that's bound to happen. How much nuance can you truly delve into with 280 characters? That's the nature of those kinds of places. And as someone who actually likes Twitter, that's just something I need to get used to.


But in the spirit of this album's main theme, now it's time for me to look inward and reflect.


Why did you feel so strongly about that tweet? Well, it probably triggered an insecurity in myself of not feeling understood.


Why did you feel the need to respond to everyone who shared that opinion? I'm sure it's because it reminded me of times in my childhood where no one would listen to me. Where I didn't feel seen. That's probably where the defensiveness comes from.


And finally, what are you going to do moving forward when these same emotions arise?

I guess come here and get my reactionary thoughts off. Just in a place where more characters are allowed.