Show Recap: Kendrick Lamar at the Regency
March 28, 2012
Things are looking up for young Kendrick Lamar. After plying his craft for years with indie label Top Dawg Entertainment, he will now be on the Interscope Records roster after TDE inked a deal with the major. He has been steadily building a head of steam, landing on last year’s XXL Freshmen 2011 cover. Dr. Dre, the godfather of the West Coast, has taken him under his wing. And all along, Kendrick has been positioning himself to be the voice of the millennial generation, and from the looks of it, he is getting his way. That so much was evident last night in The Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, where Kendrick headlined the XXL Freshman Live Tour’s stop in the Bay Area, along with one of this year’s Freshmen, the off-kilter Hopsin.
The one thing that stands out for Kendrick is that no one else in hip-hop today possess his versatility. And it’s not just his voice, the technical ability he has to twist and weave in and out of any meter or rhythm and add any kind of inflection from steely resolve (ie, “HiiiPowered”) to emotional turbulence (his part on BJ the Chicago Kid’s “His Pain II”), but also in sentiment in his songwriting, where his songs can soundtrack every phase of a house party, from the icebreaking warmup, the wild climatic peak, and the melancholy and tired conclusion. For almost any mood, he has a performance, and a song, for it. And no one quite captures the milieu of the college crowd quite like he does, expressing both their attention-deficit upbringing and the new, progressive attitudes that they hope will make its mark in the world.
For the show, he went through nearly his entire gamut of ability. As he entered the stage, he was a hyperkinetic blur, starting with “Fuck Your Ethnicity” (very apropos for the Bay Area’s ethnically diverse hip-hop crowds), squinting and hunching over like he was loading a spring before bouncing upward with arms waving. He’d settle into a groove three songs later with “A.D.H.D.”, the standout track of his Section.80 LP, which immediately hit the crowd spinning. Upon the first strums of the beat, they chanted in unison the entire hook of the song, unprompted. With the crowd firmly under his thumb, Kendrick would venture in a bit of a risk and ask the audience what song to play next by having everyone shout out the song all at once. With a few rounds of calls and responses, the crowd came to a consensus and Kendrick obliged with “Rigamortus”, the speedy, staccato technical showcase of a track that the sound system probably could not reproduce clearly enough to show all its nuances. Kendrick would try again with the song request stunt, this time no one quite agreed on what to play and each shout sounded nondescript.
And perhaps at this point, the white-hot crowd started to cool just a bit, after going through his most memorable tracks. The crowd was still appreciative of these later tracks, like “Cut You Off”, and the bouncy “Blow My High (Members Only)” with the borrowed hook from Pimp C, and “HiiiPowered”, his political manifesto about making a mark on the world. He hits some acapella rhymes from the end of Section.80 and before you know it, he’s at the end of his set, at approximately one hour since it began. The crowd asks for an encore, and Kendrick obliges for one more song, and finally the house light come up to stay. Despite the hype, Kendrick’s career is undeniably young, and his catalog isn’t quite as extensive, a bit slim for a headliner in a venue as large as the Regency. And frankly, his stage show could use some more fine tuning in terms of timing. But that mattered none for those in the house. In Kendrick Lamar’s first big show in the Bay Area, he delivered on his promise. It looked as if it was the future of hip-hop on stage tonight.
Hopsin would also like to claim to be the future as well, and although he did his job as an opener and kept the crowd lively for Kendrick, his style is of a much more established vein of, say, Eminem. His partner, Dizzy Wright, also made it on the stage, playing some of his own songs, but the stage belonged to Hopsin, who at the end of the set was shirtless with his pants firmly sagging below his butt. With plenty of shots directed toward rappers like Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy, and Tyler the Creator, he saved his bitterest vitriol for Ruthless Records, who signed him but sat on him for years before he made something for himself after being released. Like Em, he kept his negativity palatable with jokes and playfulness, one time even throwing a dig at Wright, saying he should have told him his pants were sagging so much, and the c