So I know this is a bit late, but after the AMAZING experience that was the Kendrick Lamar concert last Sunday, I had to ask my talented friend Lemara Lindsay-Prince to write a review, because I knew my words really wouldn't be able to do it justice.
Kendrick Lamar, Hammersmith Apollo 20th January 2013
"Put your left hand up. Put your right hand up!"
Those were the simple instructions for the night from Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, the latest and greatest artist “straight outta Compton.” Lamar, undoubtedly has the weight of West Coast rap on his back as we all wait impatiently for Dr Dre’s sequel to The Chronic, since Snoop Dogg discovered Zion and not everyone has been put on to Dom Kennedy there hasn’t been an artist from the West as hard hitting, able to paint pictures with words and as revealing as Kendrick.
Those simple instructions to put our hands up which he repeated throughout the show was both the audience showing an appreciation for his performance and a signal to “All Hail King Kendrick” who has saved West Coast rap and the art of lyricism. Injecting a new genre and style of black hippy rap into the world.
He entered the stage to the anthemic sounds of “The Art of Peer Pressure” which set the tone for that night, reminding us that his album was a story, a snapshot into a specific day in his past which made him the rapper he is today. He confessed that “really I’m a sober soul but I’m with the homies right now” not an excuse but an explanation for his actions and what happens when they all get together. Standing in the crowd with my good friends Jade, Archie and Josh I definitely related to that feeling of enjoying a moment and events with your closest friends and what ever happens, happens.
It was hard to take in that just one man was commanding a stage in front of thousands that night. Kendrick isn’t the tallest rapper and at times his slight frame was hard to see through the headlights of iPhones held high to capture the moment. However, he has an amazing stage presence and ability to control his fans. At different moments he rapped at others he spoke directly to the front row faithfuls and all the while he reassured us that his music was for us. A short movie about his life, a set of scenarios that we all could relate to.
Whilst I can’t physically achieve what he screams in Backseat Freestyle, that song in particularly and my other favorite The Spiteful Chant capture a personal human emotion that can be shared with millions. To hear Backseat Freestyle live is something that has stayed with me since last week. As the infamous Hit Boy beat erupted through The Apollo, the crowd moved in succinct rhythm to the bass - literally carrying you from one side of the auditorium to the next. That night he played everyone’s anthems spread across two albums, Good Kid, Mad City from which he played: Poetic Justice, Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe, Money Trees and Swimming Pools. In my heart I wish he closed on Sing About Me Dying of Thirst instead it was Cartoons & Cereal. From Section.80: Hol’up had everyone singing along automatically, A.D.H.D, HiiPower, Tammy’s Song, Blow My High but unfortunately for me and Josh no Spiteful Chant. Kendrick really tested the knowledge of his fans by playing tracks of his early mixtape Overly Dedicated and I went mad to the sounds of P&P 1.5.
There wasn’t a closed mouth in the whole building the entire night and even if you didn’t know the lyrics word for word you shouted to the most memorable bits especially his tagline, “ya bish!” At times I thought if Kendrick was to stop rapping at any given moment, there was an army of fans ready and waiting that could confidently pick up at the exact lyric he left off.
Although the sign outside read Kendrick Lamar Concert SOLD OUT we were all in attendance of a party that night. There wasn’t a moment when people were standing still and not dancing, or the mosh pit quelled with bodies and swayed from side to side. Kendrick assured us that if we could survive some of his biggest songs: Backseat Freestyle, Money Trees and Cartoons & Cereal to be specific, then we could survive anything! Hell even a ride through Compton!
In comparison to other rap artists I’ve seen namely: Kanye West, Jay-Z and Lupe Fiasco. Kendrick Lamar’s show is stripped bare of any theatrics and really is just one man, a mic and his DJ. This set up works to his advantage as he takes Rap music back to its essence in it’s most raw and authentic way. Honoring an art form that even with its mainstream and commercial success. That has transitioned from street corners to stadiums, has given a voice to the voiceless and allowed the world to hear the experiences of black America and on this night in particularly the, “true motherfuckin story told by Kendrick Lamar on Rosencrans, ya bitch!”