When Kendrick Lamar announced plans to release “Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers,” his fifth studio album and follow-up to his Pulitzer Prize-winning “DAMN,” expectations could not have been higher. Over the past decade, Lamar has established himself as the poet laureate of hip-hop, consistently pushing social and literary boundaries while pulling from an increasingly eclectic array of musical influences. The fact that he had been largely absent from the public sphere since providing the soundtrack for “Black Panther” in 2018 only added to the added to the project’s mystique.
At this point, the only safe assumption to make about a new Kendrick Lamar album is that it will dodge expectations and surprise listeners at every turn. By that standard, “Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers” certainly delivered when it dropped in May. Five years after winning the Pulitzer Prize for Music and being crowned the de facto king of rap, Lamar devoted an album to tearing down the mystique around him and arguing why he was undeserving of that title (while still demonstrating the talent that earned it in the first place). More than anything else, the cryptic, introspective album is an exploration of Lamar’s shortcomings and insecurities and a look into one of the music industry’s most fascinating brains.
One of the most talked-about songs on the album is “We Cry Together,” a duet between Lamar and “Zola” actress Taylour Paige that recounts a vitriolic fight between a couple that takes place entirely in meter. The song received attention for its brutal language and unfiltered honesty, as well as the fact that it seemed to resemble drama more than music. The comparison to film dialogue was clearly made by Lamar as well, as he teamed up with Jake Schreier and Dave Free to co-direct a short film based on the song. The short features Lamar and Paige reprising their roles from the song as they dramatize the fight that it portrays.
Many expect the film to make Lamar a serious contender in next year’s Oscar race, as “We Cry Together” will be eligible in the Best Live Action Short category. It’s just the latest example of big name musicians mounting awards campaigns for short films based on their songs. Some of Lamar’s biggest competition for the award is expected to come in the form of Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well: The Short Film.”
“We Cry Together” received an Oscar-qualifying theatrical run at the Laemmle Royal Theater in West Los Angeles for a week in June. Now, you can watch the full video below: