O2 Academy Bristol | January 19th
To be honest, we initially prepared ourselves for disappointment. Even some of the smartest MCs are prone to the common live hip-hop hazards: abandoning tracks after one verse, churning out other rappers’ hits and inviting a nephew or a miscellaneous homie onstage for a cameo freestyle. But fortunately, Kendrick Lamar is victim to no such pitfalls.
He arrives alone. There’s no entourage of hype men, just Kendrick, totally owning the stage and looking sharp in a maroon coach jacket, grey tee and white hi-tops. Though he comes across all straight-faced and level-headed during interviews, onstage he’s a cocky but likeable showman who rinses rowdy hecklers with good-natured put downs and seems genuinely flattered that people bought tickets to come and see his show.
Lamar’s wiry voice pierces its way through the soundsystem, but he can’t always replicate the martian-like, pitch shifted vocals of his tracks and so he relies on help from the crowd. That’s no problem though, because it seems as if everyone here is able to recite pretty much every lyric of his entire back catalogue. The first half of the set is mainly based around 2011’s solid Section.80, and the massively quotable older tune P&P is a natural crowd-pleaser. Money Trees signifies that it’s time for some good kid, m.A.A.d city material and everyone goes nuts. The buttery Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe prompts a warm reception and the lyrics of the post-ironic alpha male fantasy Backseat Freestyle are belted out by both genders.
At this stage of his career, Kendrick Lamar is both eager to show off his credentials and giddy about his new position under the spotlight. This guy’s just dropped a certified gold album that outsold Rihanna is the US, and if he’s the man elected as this era’s definitive rapper, then we’ve made a pretty good choice.
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Words: David Reed