Hood Politics: Kendrick Lamar Rocks Washington D.C.'s Lincoln Theater [Exclusive Photos + Recap]
Photos by Victoria Ford for Sneakshot + Okayplayer
Words by Carlos Hill
Last Sunday night, Kendrick Lamar rocked the Historic Lincoln Theatre on Washington D.C.’s U Street, a strip formerly known as “Black Broadway” before the clashes of the MLK riots. And beneath the venues beautiful chandeliers and chaste Presidential balconies, the funk was most certainly delivered. Lamar channeled the oratory fervor of Frederick Douglass from on stage, varying his delivery, speed, cadence and emotion to create a new American musical drama.
He controlled both ends of the room, working in perfect sync with his band to deliver To Pimp A Butterfly cuts like the world has never heard before. While at the same time, Lamar dolled out nigh-limitless energy to the crowd, who was all too happy to return the favor; The Lincoln Theatre show was a night both non-verbal body-English, to unison chants and handclaps. Kendrick Lamar stood atop a pedestal at the Kennedy Center when he performed with the National Symphony Orchestra–but there at the Lincoln he was posted on the block!
The evening opened with TPAB’s iconic first breath, “Wesley’s Theory” before careening through “Institutionalize” and “Backseat Freestyle.” Lamar was able to seamlessly integrate his newest material amidst past classics, offering up first-hand evidence that he does, in fact, have a unified aesthetic. As the night wore on, the crowd became a co-star, singing hooks, finishing up verses, empowering Kendrick–like DC folk know how to do!
On the pensive cut, “Complexion” Kendrick brought Rapsody out to feature her verse exclusively–a move that added added depth and diversity to the show. But quickly K.Dot turned it tribal up in there with abstract verses, unpredictable, rhyme cadences and altered tempos. His Good Kid M.A.A.D City selections had the building bouncing, and the active flashing lighting sets an almost riot like vibe transitioning from a warning yellow to a fiery red alert.
“Some say [TPAB] is album of the year, some say its the album of our generation. But to me it’s therapy for you and me. Within six months of Good Kid M.A.A.D City dropping my life did a complete 360. I received a lot of critical acclaim and fame and I didn’t know how to control it, and I’m still learning,” Lamar confessed as a took time out to speak directly. He continued:
“When the whole world is telling you that you’re great and you’re trying to believe it. And you cant believe it because of where you come from and what was installed in you. This album was therapy and y’all allowed me to make it in these times! No,matter what I’m going through, this core supports me. The reason you’re here right now is because we are learning this together, honesty, regret, apprehension.
These may be the last times that I perform this project after these 8 shows.
I did a meet and greet earlier today and one dude gave me a letter he said I appreciate you for allowing me to hear music that reflects what I’m going through. We don’t even know each other. This dude is white by the way. Beyond color what makes us one? We are human and second and most importantly, we are all God’s children. If you would have told me this [type of interaction] would happen 50 years ago, I wouldn’t believe it. This lets me know that music not only heals it gives us a chance in this one room to rejoice and celebrate with each other. Haven’t seen y’all in a while, this is my core audience. I wrote a song called ‘Sing About Me.’ I hope y’all sing about me when it’s all over with. Until it all falls down, we’re all kings!”
From Compton to Congress, Lamar met–and then surpassed–the hype and expectations surrounding his new material, and the man we witnessed at the Lincoln Theatre was a intelligent, musically blessed, street cat. He’s that street smart intellectual who can properly address a Kennedy Center audience (and own them) and then can kick back with the homies at Lincoln Theatre. He knows which notes to play and when.
And for a moment it seemed as if the night was over, but the crowd would not be denied. As if the moment itself demanded it, a chant of “we gonna be alright” rippled across the room like protesters marching down Pennsylvania Ave. They chanted louder and louder until thy could see Kendrick’s silhouette on the darkened stage. This was something truly amazing–Lamar was experiencing D.C., the DMV, it’s pulsating passion and emotion and he was amazed. After about 5 minutes, he launched into his masterpiece –“Alright!” At that point he was the mayor, the Representative–shiiiiit he was President of it all. He’s head of both Halle Berry and hallelujah! He’s proven he can speak to,the tuxedos and the track suits and connect with them in the most powerful city in the world. King Kunta ruled over everything that mattered that night at the Lincoln Theatre.