The scene outside of Roseland Ballroom on Tuesday evening wasn’t a surprise. Since October, Kendrick Lamar has become a household name of sorts, with rave reviews of his major label debut demanding far more attention than the hip-hop community alone can accommodate.
A mixed crowd came out early to see the young prodigy in one of two back-to-back shows at the midtown manhattan venue, packing tightly into sectioned metal corrals all the way around the block and then some, long before the doors were scheduled to open.
Even those passing by to catch the Broadway musical Jersey Boys recited lyrics as they noticed the marquee and lamented having to miss the show—rather than wondering, “Who’s Kendrick Lay-mar?”
People of all ages were in attendance, awaiting for the arrival of West Coast’s new poster child. K-Dot’s critically (and now commercially) adored Interscope debut, good kid, M.A.A.D City, is living proof that hip-hop is still a fixture in young American culture the way it was years ago. The only difference now is the range of people who are open to embrace it. Seeing two middle-school-aged kids, accompanied by their father, reciting every word to songs off Kendrick’s set seemed rather appropriate.
The initial 15-minute performances from each of Kendrick’s T.D.E. brethren failed to take place as scheduled. They were replaced with an hour-long party rock hosted by Cipha Sounds, with every neighborhood in New York City getting a proper nod.
As the crowd grew restless, K. Dot finally took the stage to the ecstatic roars and One Direction-esque teenage girl screeches. After the opening cuts, which included pre-GKMC favorites “Hol’ Up” and “P&P 1.5,” Ab-Soul joined to perform “Terrorist Threats.” By this point, the energy in the building had reached its zenith, and it would remain there until Kendrick dropped the microphone on stage to close the evening.
The performance was as good as hip-hop shows get. No extra entourage with towels, cups of Hennessy, and unnecessary recitation of the star’s lyrics. The Compton native’s stage presence was as honest, engaging, and impassioned as you’d expect from him. Drenched with sweat, Kendrick made a point of addressing the crowd throughout the night. Some time during the first half of the show, a black sneaker flew past his back between songs, to which he cooly replied, "You need not be thrown’ these ugly-ass shoes on stage, bruh."
The show featured a range of material, both new and old. Highlights included “Money Trees” with an overhyped support from Jay Rock, “Hands on the Wheel” with Schoolboy Q (who admitted his disdain for performing the song immediately after), “Backseat Freestyle,” Section.80 favorite “Blow My High,” and near flawless live recitation of “Look Out For Detox.” For an encore, the entire Black Hippy set took the stage to perform “Cartoons & Cereal,” breeding thoughts how such a moment would be remembered a decade down the line, and what will have become of the T.D.E. movement by then. One thing, however, was for certain, that witnessing such a collection of talent sharing a stage this early in their careers wasn’t to be taken for granted.
While 50 Cent and A$AP Rocky’s guest appearance for the second part of the evening is stirring well deserved attention, it’s an after thought considering Kendrick’s finesse as a live performer. It was clear he was the star of the evening, and it appears it’ll remain that way.