If only all hip hop shows were like Kendrick Lamar’s performance last night. The 2011 “XXL Freshman” headlined the Regency Ballroom for the Monster Outbreak Tour, eschewing any indication of a novice emcee waiting to break. From the moment he stepped on the stage, the crowd cheering, fists pumping, he was a star. In all the shows this lowly journalist has seen, never has a performer engaged the crowd so effortlessly and effectively.
It certainly helped that everyone appeared to know all of his lyrics. Excited by the response, Lamar repeated throughout the set “Well, I wasn’t going to do this” before complimenting the crowd’s energy and launching into a new track, freestyle, or request. “Kendrick! Lamar!” they chanted, which encouraged Lamar to launch into one of his bigger hits, “ADHD.” But before he could finish the song, he stopped “This girl just fucked up my mojo and shit,” pointing into the audience, “She looks intimidating and shit. What’s your name?” After learning her name he continued with “Cut You Off,” the audience singing along “Whoop-de-whoop, blah-zay-blah / He say, she say, Oh my God / Shut the fuck up.”
Unlike his recordings, Lamar’s typically smooth and nasally voice was raspy. This may be due in part to his recent tour with Drake and A$AP Rocky that finished only two weeks earlier. But the tonal change helped annunciate his lyrics over the backing track. His dynamic flow fluctuated from mellow on tracks like “ADHD” to confidently quick with a midset freestyle (play below).
No end to such a show could be satisfying, but after rapping “Michael Jordan,” a capella he said to the crowd “I want to dedicate that to Trayvon Martin. There will be justice.” The crowd roared in affirmation, and what followed, “Cartoon & Cereal” his biggest hit to date, was just the icing on the cake to a rare treat.
-Photos by Darryl Kirchner