Three days following the release of his latest studio album DAMN., headliner Kendrick Lamar returned to Twitter’s trending topics list after his gripping set at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on Sunday (April 16). Perhaps it was no coincidence that the rapper’s performance fell on Easter Sunday as the gig felt like the grand return of Lamar himself.
Lamar’s label Top Dawg Entertainment opened the set with a special presentation of The Damn Legend of Kung Fu Kenny, a three-part short film designed like an old-school kung fu flick (complete with subtitles) that featured the rapper as his alter-ego, Kung Fu Kenny a.k.a. Black Turtle, on a mission to “find The Glow.” He takes on Snake, a cobra who morphs into a female martial artist, Mortal Kombat style. As she lay helpless on the ground following their battle, she tells Lamar, “You thought you could save the world. The Glow will shine bright in the dark.”
There was no blocking Lamar’s light during his set in the desert. The MC’s stage transformed into several stunning displays, shifting from a fiery refuge for the live rendition of “ELEMENT.” to a wavy paradise for “GOD.” He mixed DAMN. entries like the opener “BLOOD.,” “DNA.” and the U2-less “XXX.” with catalog staples from previous albums like To Pimp a Butterfly‘s “King Kunta” and “Alright” as well as Good Kid, m.A.A.d City‘s “Money Trees,” “Backseat Freestyle,” “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” and “Swimming Pools (Drank).” For “LUST.,” Kendrick Lamar rapped from the inside of an illuminated cage in the middle of the crowd, even checking in on the audience by eerily asking, “Is anybody out there?” For “PRIDE.,” Lamar was suspended in the air on-stage in a trippy, martial arts-esque stance involving a second person.
Beyond defying gravity, the rap god also handed over the stage to special guests like his TDE cohort ScHoolboy Q, who performed “tHat Part” (he had hosted his own set on Night 2) and fellow Coachella performer Future, whose flute-heavy banger “Mask Off” made Lamar’s lineup. Travis Scott, who also performed at the festival the night prior, re-emerged for a complete performance of the Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight standout “Goosebumps.”
After the final vignette of his kung fu movie where the rapper “found the mothaf–kin’ glow,” King Kendrick launched into the aggressive crowd-pleaser “HUMBLE.” where the call-outs “Sit down. Be humble.” flashed across the screen in both English and Chinese characters. Lamar seemed to end the set on a somewhat confusing note, telling Coachella-goers “We will be back” and prompting many to make a bee line for the parking lot before the mad rush home. However, the man of the night put on one last show with the melodic number “LOVE.” off DAMN. “Thank y’all for comin’ out tonight, I really appreciate, y’all,” Lamar told the crowd before his final bow. “I had a good motherf–king time with y’all.”