Since a packed 2012 performance at Trees, Kendrick Lamar has gained an even bigger audience and even more respect from critics and hip-hop heads. Fans of different backgrounds crowded the American Airlines Center on Friday, from the front of the stage to the top rafters, to rap (or attempt to rap) along with Lamar’s carefully crafted lyrics.
Kicking it off with “DNA,” a standout track from his latest album, Lamar was energetic and confident, possibly because he stepped on as Kung Fu Kenny, a persona introduced on Damn. Either way, Lamar made sure he was the focus of every song, not the lights that kept time with the constant thumping and the background images that flashed behind and above him.
The mantra: Ain’t nobody praying for me, continued on a loop every transition. Yet it resonated with the crowd as it did when Damn. dropped in April. Lamar, Kung Fu Kenny, K-Dot, the G.O.A.T., whatever your preference, was at a full-time high on Friday night as he counted down for the crowd to get hype. As Travi$ Scott told security at the end of his opening set, “You don’t tell a fan to not turn up at a motherf—ing Kendrick Lamar concert.”
And that’s what fans did as they jumped along to the beat and rapped along to “M.A.A.D. City,” “Levitate,” and more of Lamar’s up-tempo songs. At one point in the concert Kendrick had to stop and bow, as the crowd took over to rap “Humble,” the hit single from Damn.
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“There’s nothing but positive energy in here,” Lamar said over deafening cheering from the crowd.
Lamar’s high-energy performance was in stark contrast to some of his more toned down shows, such as the 2016 Grammys performance. He also looked tired during his brief appearance at the Damn. pop-up shop Friday on Lovers Lane.
However, Kendrick has found a formula of mixing heavy-duty beats with serious lyrics, and knows how to turn his sound into a captivating show. This has helped him build a fanbase dedicated enough to wait three hours in 98-degree heat to buy his exclusive merchandise from a one-day pop-up shop.
As much as he impacts his fans, the fans seem to have left an impression on Lamar. During an encore, he rapped “Feel” and left the crowd with this: “I know Dallas praying for me because I’m praying for you.”