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Watch Kendrick Lamar’s Historic Kennedy Center Performance w/ The NSO [Video + Exclusive Recap!]

Watch Kendrick Lamar’s Historic Kennedy Center Performance w/ The NSO [Video + Exclusive Recap!]

Kendrick Lamar National Symphony Orchestra Square


Mellow guitars introduced a “Swimming Pools” interlude fully equipped with brooding bass. Next, the wondrous strings to “If These Walls Could Talk” came in major. The sounds provided by the NSO were impeccable–so proper, so right.

Last night, Kendrick showed once again that he is a consummate performer, delivering crisp flows, hand signals a NYC crossing guard couldn’t muster, complemented with a slew of manic nonverbal cues that underlined and added exclamation points to his unique grammar. He showed further versatility in singing Bilal’s hook in a bluesy howl.

He also proved that he is the preeminent MC in hip-hop music. When Nas stated hip-hop was dead Kendrick was like John Conner, striving to save the embattled genre. Last night, he resuscitated it.

Kendrick’s next combination of hooks and uppercuts included “For Sale” and of course he could not rock in DC without discussing “Hood Politics,” which he rocked so hard it quite possibly made “Obama say what it do?” The cut’s live guitars and looping strings possessed the glide and grace of gossamer wings. Lamar stayed rocking with assuredness, even serving as Conductor in places–and handling business! The NSO went mosh-pit H.A.M as guitarist Robert Gueringer Kirked-out, Hendrix style, on a sick solo.

Nothing could rattle or phase Kendrick on this night. That is, until a woman in the audience yelled “I love you!” Kendrick paused, he was literally stuck with back to the audience, blushing.

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After a few seconds it was back to business as he delivered a vicious lefthook in the form of “good kid m.A.A.d. city, performed rock-style. The crowd was actively hype and showed Kendrick m.A.A.d. love and his appreciation emanated from the stage and through his performance. Even as he offered “U” –and delivered the angst and confusion that makes this cut, he shared:

“As I listen to that last verse I remember where I was when I wrote it. I wasn’t not in a good space. But there was GOD. I was down, but now I’m up, it all falls down.”

The funk overload of “King Kunta” followed and the crowd was again on its feet for the umpteenth time! An energetic sea of hands rhythmically undulated up and down like a raucous crowd in a dank basement battle, but this was the elegant Kennedy Center, where decorum and reservation reign supreme. By the end of the cut, Kendrick, the catalyst of this visible, soulful chain reaction was exhorting crowd to shout “we want the funk!” even the tuxes in the upper balconies were rocking.

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