This past Saturday night, Kendrick Lamar played the Pepsi Center on his biggest tour to date. Hopefully you were able to make it, but if you didn’t, don’t beat yourself up too much. At the worst, you missed one of the greatest hip-hop shows to ever come through our city, and at the least, you missed an amazing performance at the Pepsi Center and a fun time all around. Lamar has come a long way since playing the Ogden Theater in 2012 and moving up to Fiddlers Green Amphitheatre for 2014’s Summer Jam – now reaching the pinnacle and selling out 20,000 plus seat arenas. The come up for Kendrick Lamar is definitely real, and impressive is an understatement.
This tour is in celebration of his highly acclaimed new record, DAMN. – which has already gone platinum twice and is easily on the way to winning a few Album of the Year Awards. The DAMN. Tour featured opening sets by up and comer Big Baby D.R.A.M. and the rising star and excitement of Travis Scott. Complete with flying animatronic birds, huge pyrotechnics and on stage Kung Fu masters, the production level was arena ready.
D.R.A.M. started the night out around 7:30 p.m. and smoothly transitioned through a few of the hits in his catalog. His vocal range was impressive in person, and his soulful voice carried through the performance well. Highlights from the set were when he dropped his two biggest tracks to date, “Broccoli” and “Cha Cha” which the crowd burst on to their feet to dance along with.
Next out was Travis Scott who hit the stage of the sold out crowd and instantly fell into his element. Scott is a very talented performer and his stage presence and charisma are second to none in hip-hop right now. His entire set had the whole venue jumping along to the bass heavy tracks and auto tuned singing that Scott has managed to master.
Towards the middle of the performance, a large animatronic bird came down from the rafters and Scott then preceded to hook a harness up and perform as it rose into the sky. It was a pretty spectacular sight and Scott even managed to keep the crowd jumping while standing atop the moving bird. Although about two songs after getting atop the large bird platform, Scott called down and asked, “Is this the same fucking guy from last night? Is it? Fuck it, get me down from here.”
While it was unclear exactly what happened to make Scott so upset, his time on the bird was definitely cut short. His set also didn’t even last a full hour, so some of it may have been cut short due to time or technical difficulties as well. Despite the small altercation, the highlight of the set had to be when Scott dropped the Kendrick Lamar assisted “Goosebumps” and the entire crowd exploded.
Around 9:20 p.m. a video appeared on the big screen and the legend of Kung Fu Kenny was about to begin. The Kung Fu Kenny phrase is a theme explored throughout the DAMN. album and is a huge hit for the tour’s merchandising. As the video began, it was clearly inspired by classic Kung Fu films and Kendrick Lamar was the star of this one. Getting the party started early, Lamar opened up with “DNA.” – the aggressive and hard hitting intro track of DAMN. From there, he progressed into “Element.” and continued through a set containing a long history of Kendrick Lamar hits.
As each song dropped, huge bursts of fire popped in the background, sometimes even containing extremely loud firecrackers. This show did an amazing job at complementing the impressive stage production with an extremely simple performance from Lamar. There was no backup bands or hype man jumping on stage, just one emcee firing out some of the best hip-hop out right now. Whether watching the legend of Kung Fu Kenny on the big screen in between tracks or watching choreographed Karate and Kung Fu artist fight on stage, the crowd didn’t get the chance to be bored during this show.
Some of the older tracks Lamar explored included “Money Trees,“ “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” and “Alright” — which are all from earlier albums in his career. He also tossed in a few big name features like his track with Future, “Mask Off” and his 2014 hit with Schoolboy Q “Collard Greens.” Towards the end of the night, Lamar finished out the set with a few of the hit singles from his latest Record. “Love.” sounded wonderful through the huge stadium speakers and when “Humble.” came on, literally the entire crowd helped sing the second verse completely a capella. Then dropping “Humble.” a second time, the crowd energy went up an even higher notch and the whole stadium was jumping and screaming along. As he took a second to soak in the experience on stage, the screams kept getting louder and the noise level in the Pepsi Center was nearly deafening. The encore performance was “God.” and as he left the stage with his final goodbyes, the crowd still seemed stunned from the amazing performance.
Kendrick Lamar wasn’t shy on his track “The Heart Part 4” which was released earlier this year and Lamar raps, “I am the greatest rapper alive.” Now after witnessing the DAMN. Tour in its entirety, I feel comfortable agreeing. From stage presence and showmanship to lyrical content and magnificent beat selection, Kendrick Lamar is quickly heading into legendary status with the hip-hop elites. It doesn’t get much bigger than the stage Lamar’s at now, but at 30 years old, I think it’s safe to say that Kendrick Lamar has quite a bit of growing to still accomplish. A growth the world can’t wait to see.