Kendrick Lamar performs at Santos Party House in New York City Monday night. (Neilson Barnard, Getty/Wire Image)
He may call himself "the Good Kid From the Mad City" of Compton, Calif., but Black Hippy's resident ladies man Kendrick Lamar may find himself being referred to by a grander title than that before long.
Last night (June 4), fans lined up around the block outside of Santos Party House in New York City trying to be one of the lucky people to gain entry to Kendrick's free show the day after he lit up the stage at Hot 97's Summer Jam (though his set at the festival, coming immediately after DJ Paul Rosenberg's condemnation of Nicki Minaj's "Starships," generally hit headlines for other reasons...). In order for fans to attend the performance -- which was co-sponsored by VEVO and HTC -- they had to retweet a message promoting the launch of HTC and VEVO's Social Sounds concert series on Twitter, then hope to be one of the first 300 people to show the RT at the door.
Backstage before the Social Sounds event presented by VEVO and HTC One are (L-R): Lori Teig (VP, Talent, VEVO), Kendrick Lamar and JP Evangelista (Director, Music Programming & Label Relations, VEVO). (Photo: Neilson Barnard, Getty/Wire Image)
In addition to the throngs of fans, HTC had a setup which showed off its new HTC One phone, with those in attendance given the chance to listen to music through Beats by Dre headphones. VEVO also filmed the performance, and will be making it available across its website and mobile apps, as well as via AOL, Yahoo! Music, Facebook and YouTube. Execs at the show included VEVO director, music programming and label relations JP Evangelista; VEVO vice president of talent Lori Teig; vice president of original content & programming at VEVO Scott Reich; VEVO vice president of west coast sales Luke Kallis; HTC marketing manager Lori Becker; Interscope director of digital strategy Justin Dreyfuss; Interscope national director of radio promotion Adam Favors; and Aftermath Entertainment general manager Kirdis Postelle.
- Kendrick Lamar (@kendricklamar) June 1, 2012
But as soon as the fans packed inside the venue, Kendrick asserted himself as the dynamic live performer he's grown to be in the past few years. Taking the stage around 8:30 pm, he opened with "Cartoons and Cereal," his new offering featuring Gunplay that he's said will be included on Good Kid in a Mad City, his sophomore album and first since he and his Top Dawg Entertainment co-horts -- Jay Rock, Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul -- signed to Interscope Records/ Aftermath Entertainment in March. "F--- Your Ethnicity" and "Hol' Up" from debut album Section.80 also got a huge response from the crowd, which rapped every word along with him.
Ab-Soul joins Kendrick Lamar on stage for two songs. (Photo: Dan Rys)
His set became a family affair before too long, as each member of Black Hippy came out and performed a track -- Ab-Soul hit the stage first for "P & P" before rapping "Terrorist Threats" off his new album Control Systems, followed by Jay Rock ("Hood Gone Love It") and Schoolboy Q ("Hands on the Wheel," his track with A$AP Rocky off his Habits & Contradictions LP).
What stuck out about Lamar as a performer was more than just his stage presence and ability to hype a crowd, but how he related to his audience, and vice versa. While many rappers stick to a formula of spitting the first half of a verse and letting the fans take the second half, Kendrick uses the live stage to showcase his flow, often dropping the beat and going a capella, as he did on "Blow My High" and "HiiiPower" toward the end of his set, with his fans rapping right along with him. And while that in and of itself isn't unique -- far from it, sure -- his connection with his fans seem to go deeper than the music itself, as if they need him to say the words to his songs along with them, rather than just press play on the laptop and bounce around. "I'm going to let this song rep not only me but all these mother f---ers in my generation," he said before launching into "A.D.H.D.," and the overwhelming crowd response seemed to affirm that his fans wanted exactly that.
Kendrick Lamar performing. (Photo: Dan Rys)
Lamar closed his hour-long set with his latest, Dr. Dre-assisted, track "The Recipe," which is also set to pop up on Good Kid in a Mad City. Last year at a show in L.A., Dre and Snoop Dogg bestowed Kendrick with the title of the new King of the West Coast. With the way crowds are popping for him all over the country, it doesn't look like he'll be stopping there.
Set List: Cartoons and Cereal, F--- Your Ethnicity, Hol' Up, P & P (w. Ab-Soul), Terrorist Threats (w. Ab-Soul), Look Out For Detox, A.D.H.D., Tammy's Song (Her Evils), Hood Gone Love It (w. Jay Rock), Rigamortus, Hands on the Wheel (w. Schoolboy Q), Cut You Off (To Grow Closer), Blow My High, HiiiPower; Encore: The Recipe.
The crowd bumping for Kendrick's hour-long performance. (Photo: Neilson Barnard, Getty/Wire Image)