Five years. That’s how long the music world, fans, stans and enthusiasts have had to wait for Kendrick Lamar to release his newest studio album, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers.

They say good things take time, and in the case of the Californian rapper and his fifth studio album, it would seem that the fruits of his labour are a gift for all to enjoy.

The album is a hefty 18-song set record that’s a direct follow-up to his 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning album, Damn (for which he also received seven Grammy awards for). Spread over two discs and featuring appearances from a wide variety of musical collaborators, you’l find worthy contributions from the likes of Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, R&B singer Summer Walker, singer-songwriter Sampha, Baby Keem, Ghostface Killah, Kodak Black and Thundercat.

You can also credit Pharrell, the Alchemist, Beach Noise and Boi-1da for writing and production contributions.

From the initial listen, the album seems wholesome. Listeners are treated to the musical genius of Lamar and his band; the coming together of incredibly talented musicians who have artistically weaved together a story of love, loss, grief and family.

You only need to hear – and see – Lamar’s recently shared new song “The Heart Part 5”, to understand what is at play here. The new track made waves across the internet this week, not only for its poignant messaging, but for its polarising music video, which utilises deepfake technology to centre around the idea of perspective. In the 5 minute clip, Lamar embodies the perspectives from a number of culturally-significant individuals, like O.J. Simpson, Kanye West, Will Smith and Kobe Bryant.

Strange, a little distressing but powerfully-executed above all else, the track is gripping from start to finis.

Kendrick Lamar

Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is a significant milestone for the rapper, also. It will mark his final LP for his longtime label, Top Dawg Entertainment, suggesting the ending of an era, but perhaps the birth of a new direction for the 34-year old.

“I feel joy to have been a part of such a cultural imprint after 17 years,” he wrote via a statement.

While keeping a low profile since Damn, Lamar hasn’t gone completely MIA, contributing his talents to several collaborative projects, including making guest appearances on tracks by Anderson. Paak, Busta Rhymes and Terrace Martin. Lamar also performed at this year’s Super Bowl halftime show, much to the his fan’s appeasement.

It’s interesting to note though, in a time when the consumer demand for content is now, in real time, an artist of Lamar’s magnitude is able to fly under the radar for five years without sacrificing fan loyalty or critical prestige. It speaks at lengths of his influence not only on the rap genre, but the music industry as a whole.

Perhaps he really is a once in a lifetime artist.

Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers available to stream now via Spotify and other streaming services.