Posted by Christopher Cruddace.
Reviewed on 28th November 2015.
Live at Leeds Festival 2015 on Friday, 28th August 2015
After the release of his 3rd album, To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar received high praise for his intricate lyrics, unique flow and slick track production. The album is a follow up to the critically-acclaimed concept album Good Kid, M.A.A.D City and received similar critical praise. A man in high demand, Leeds and Reading Festivals worked fast and booked Lamar to play before the headliners The Libertines on Friday the 28th August at Leeds (Sunday 30th at Reading). Having greatly appreciated all of Lamar's works so far, I eagerly anticipated his show, and my friends and I made sure we got as close to the stage as possible in order to marvel at this modern day hip-hop genius.
Lamar opened with "Money Trees", a banger selected from his second album, and a popular choice based upon crowd reaction. Lamar worked the crowd at every opportunity, making sure the patrons knew the appreciation he held for them, and encouraging singing along to the song's memorable hooks. Lamar played a set largely consisting of songs from his sophomore album, continuing from the opener with "Backseat Freestyle" and the eponymous "M.A.A.D City". Two of the more popular tracks, the festival-goers danced and sang their hearts out, many loyal fans knowing every word to each song and rapping along with Lamar. "Swimming Pool (Drank)" was amongst the most popular singles of the second album, and Lamar periodically reminded the crowd of the words to the hook in order to build an atmosphere. Lamar is excellent at playing with the crowd, constantly sending appreciation out to his fans, and getting them involved in his performance.
After this, Lamar decided to cover the famous A$AP Rocky tune, "Fuckin' Problems". This surprise entry on the setlist was greatly appreciated by the crowd, who sang along and willingly followed Lamar's instructions to "Bounce around and have a good time, yo..." After multiple deeper cuts from M.A.A.D City and a very authentic version of 2Pac's "Hail Mary", Lamar brought the house down with the self-love proclaiming single "i" from his latest album. Lamar bounced and spat his way through a fabulous performance of the track, rapping such lines as, "The sky could fall now, the wind could cry, the strong would weep, I still smile". This ethos of self-love and positivity echoed throughout the crowd, who responded with aplomb. After a heartfelt rendition of "Sing About Me/I'm Dying of Thirst", where Lamar thanked many of his inspirations for the new album, and tugged at the heartstrings with lines lamenting the hardships of inner city people and the struggles of his life, Lamar exploded into the huge track, "Alright", a single from the new album which spreads the message of battling through your struggles, and also describing Lamar's own experiences with hardships in Compton. This track, iconic and bombastic, received the greatest cheer of the crowd during the performance, with almost every patron belting out the chorus with joy. Lamar then carried on the high-tempo single with the bassline-orientated, narcissistic "King Kunta", describing his rise to the peak of the rap game. The crowd happily appeased their hero, heartily shouting out the first lines of the song along with Lamar ("I GOTTA BONE TO PICK!") and danced happily to the slick grooves of Lamar's backing band (who were, by all accounts, fantastic instrumentalists).
Lamar then took a short break, then returned for one final song; the lead single from his very first album, "ADHD". Though he began the song with aplomb, Lamar stopped in the opening moments, laughing earnestly and telling the crowd how immense they had been throughout the performance. Lamar then continued, encouraging the masses to join in on the relaxed, dismissive hook of "8 doobies to the face, fuck that!" The song acted as a tribute to all the fans whom had stuck with Lamar since the beginning, and were rewarded by a fantastic performance by a musician and rapper at the absolute peak of his powers.
Kendrick Lamar was utterly outstanding at Leeds Festival. From the raucous crowd, bombastic instrumentation and the impeccable flow of the man himself, Lamar went above and beyond the call of duty and raised the bar for the many acts that would follow him. If you ever get the opportunity I implore you; go and see Kendrick Lamar in concert. It is an experience you shall not soon forget.