“Mother I Sober” is the seventeenth track on Kendrick Lamar’s 2022 album ‘Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers.’ The song dives into a soft spot from Kendrick’s upbringing where sexual assault was an endemic disease and how it affected everyone around him and himself.
Kendrick Lamar released his fifth studio album ‘Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers’ on May 13, 2022. This is K Dot’s highly anticipated follow-up to his 2017 project ‘DAMN.’ Fans were delivered with a double album for their patience of over five years. Announcing the new album, Kendrick Lamar provided some context into what is about to come; “Love, loss, and grief have disturbed my comfort zone, but the glimmers of God speak through my music and family. While the world around me evolves, I reflect on what matters the most. The life in which my words will land next.”
The title of the song implies that Kendrick Lamar wishes to get sober about these topics that are usually drowned in the musky intoxication of our minds. It is time to confront these hidden memories and clear the air. Sexual molestations within the Black community have been rampant since the days of slavery. As Kendrick addresses later in the song, slaveholders have forced Black slave men to watch as their partners were getting sexually assaulted, and even to the extent of forcing sexual assault between family members. This inhumanity might be a thing of the past, but its repercussions still ripple to date.
Listen to “Mother I Sober” by Kendrick Lamar
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Kendrick Lamar “Mother I Sober” Lyrics Meaning and Song Review
Kendrick Lamar is in a mood to open these suppressed memories–not just from his childhood, but everything he has read and heard about his ancestors.
Mother cried, put they hands on her, it was family ties
I heard it all, I should’ve grabbed a gun, but I was only five
In these two lines, Kendrick opens up about one particular memory from when he was five years old. He had to witness his mother being abused–possibly both physically and sexually. He knew he had to do something, he felt the adrenaline rush but he could not fight back against the man who was laying hands on his mother. The only viable option was to reach for the gun. But he was only five years old.
The eeriest part of these lines is the use of the words “it was family ties.” The use of these specific words is likely to say that the assault came from a family member. His mother knew this person. He knew this person. Family ties are usually a good thing. But not in this case. “Family Ties” is also a reference to Kendrick Lamar and his cousin Baby Keem’s collaboration of the same name from 2021.
This incident scarred his soul for years to come. But there was no way to heal the pain. He was nurtured by his grandmother who followed him around even after she left this world. Her love and kindness might have masked Kendrick’s pain and made him turn to God instead of turning to a gun.
A little way down the line, Kendrick was still a child. But he was discovering that he might be special and gifted with a pen. However, he could not understand why his mother kept on asking him if he was touched by somebody! Kendrick kept replying ‘no’ and he claims that it was the truth.
Kendrick started writing rhymes to cope with everything going around him and to heal the scars of his forefathers.
Mother’s brother said he got revenge for my mother’s face
Black and blue, the image of my queen that I can’t erase
Kendrick’s uncle beat his mother’s abuser. Black and blue are the colors that skin turns into after enduring physical assault. White skin will show both these colors. On Kendrick’s mother’s face, he could only see blue highlights emerge, which would have only revealed so little of what the actual impact was. Regardless, Kendrick claims that her mother’s bruised face is an image he will never be able to forget.
In the third and final verse of the song, Kendrick Lamar touches on a similar topic. He opens up about his own infidelities. Oh, how Kendrick wishes that he could pull out the ‘I was drunk’ card, but he does not. He confesses that he has never been drunk or high.
So whatever acts of infidelity he did, he was very much sober. However, he was intoxicated by the lustful nature of human engineering.
Whitney’s hurt, the purest soul I know, I found her in the kitchen
Askin’ God, “Where did I lose myself? And can it be forgiven?”
Whitey Alford is Kendrick Lamar’s fiancee, who is also on the cover of ‘Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers’ album alongside Kendrick Lamar and their two children.
Despite his infidelity, Whitney only wanted him to get help. When she asked him if he was addicted to something, he responded ‘no’ and this time he was lying. He was addicted to the lustful bodies that get thrown at him daily. A certain weakness has overtaken him. He prays that his children don’t inherit these weak genes from him.
A conversation not bein’ addressed in Black families
The devastation, hauntin’ generations and humanity
Sexual assault and molestation have plagued Black families for a long time. Kendrick looks back to the time when their people were treated as mere slaves tending all the needs of the Whites. There are countless documents of these slaves being forced to pleasure their masters sexually. In worse cases, their family members were forced to watch them getting molested. In even worse cases, family members were forced to molest each other. This is both physical and mental abuse. Physical pain wears over time (sometimes), and mental pain only grows and eats on the inside.
In the last lines of the verse, Kendrick Lamar attempts to repent all these pains he has been bottling inside. He tries to let go of his own guilt of not being able to help his mother when she needed it, he attempts to forgive his mother’s abuser, he pleads for forgiveness from his cousins who were wrongfully accused, and he tries to set free all the ill-minded abusers of the world. K Dot hopes they find peace within themselves. He cannot help them. Only they can help themselves.
Let us hear what you think about this song in the comments below. Check out the complete lyrics on Genius.