Not just anyone would get a call from Alicia Keys to perform alongside her; so when Kendrick Lamar did, he went with it. The night before hopping on a red-eye to this year's SXSW festival, Kendrick Lamar performed two songs ("Swimming Pools," "Poetic Justice") during Keys' concert in Los Angeles. Keys sweetened the deal when, singing Janet Jackson's part on the "Any Time, Any Place," she sampled Lamar's "Poetic Justice."
The rapper touched down in Austin Wednesday morning, ready to take on not only a strenuous day, but a week of wall-to-wall commitments. Lamar is performing every day while at SXSW, through Saturday night, including headlining gigs for Billboard and Spotify, VICE and Mass Appeal.
Whirlwind week notwithstanding, Lamar has been on a 45-city tour since he released his Billboard 200 No. 2 major-label debut, good kid, M.A.A.D. city last October. But despite, or perhaps because, of that heavy workload, Dave Free, Kendrick Lamar's manager, told Billboard that it was essential for him to be down at SXSW, as its one festival where he can truly connect with his fans.
"Kendrick and the whole [of Top Dawg Entertainment] had an incredible year last year," Free says. "We'll continue that in 2013. We want the fans, a.k.a. [our] family, to be able to see, hear, and touch the artist. We're very appreciative of the all opportunities to do what we love." The rapper hasn't stepped into the studio to work on his sophomore album, solely focusing on touring, according to Interscope publicist Ray Alba.
The Top Dawg Entertainment family -- Front row: Terrace Martin, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, ScHoolboy Q, A Mack, Mixed by Ali and Sounwave -- Back row: Akeem, Beedog, Ashley Outrageous (hip-hop blogger), retOne, Dave Free, Moosa, Kendrick and Punch (Misha Vladimirskiy)
Even if SXSW requires no sleep, Kendrick is up for it.
He started his first day in Austin with a Google+ chat with fans, moderated by Rap Radar's B.Dot, in Google's Austin offices. Then, before heading to Walmart for an interview, Interscope publicist Ray Alba and Dave Free took a minute to sort out scheduling conflicts together. Kendrick Lamar was scheduled for a Zumiez performance today (March 14), too close to his official SXSW Q&A with Rap Radar's Elliott Wilson. Somehow, Kendrick made both events.
Before heading to his headlining show at Spotify Live on Wednesday night, Lamar surprised fans at the Fader Fort when coming out for an impromptu performance of "Backseat Freestyle." Although whispers of his appearance circled throughout the Fort earlier in the day, concertgoers cheered as if it was unbeknownst to them, even overpowering the speakers.
All of Top Dawg Entertainment came through Fader Fort for support and trailed alongside Kendrick Lamar towards Spotify Live, including Free, Alba, Top Dawg President, Punch, and his DJ and engineer, Mixed by Ali.
Ab-Soul, Jay Rock and ScHoolboy Q returned the favor and came out during Kendrick Lamar's blazing 45-minute set, setting close to unreachable standards for upcoming SXSW headliners.