Grow with the flow
He may be straight outta Compton, but that’s the only cliche you’ll ever pin on Kendrick Lamar. Hip-hop’s brightest new star talks to JIM CARROLL
THE REIGN OF King Kendrick has begun. It’s halfway through an energetic, exuberant, explosive show at Dublin’s Vicar Street. It sure doesn’t feel like a Monday night on Thomas St in the middle of January .
Every song is greeted with explosive, tumultuous hollers and noise. Every song – every banger from Section 80, every anthem from Good kid, mAAd city – has been yelled back at the stage with gusto. This is an audience who know Kendrick Lamar’s canon inside out and back to front and are eager to let him know. The fact that Lamar isn’t relying on a wingman or live-show cliches to move the crowd just adds to the frenzied atmosphere.
Midway through, Lamar pauses for a moment for a breather and to take it all in. It’s shows like this, shows far away from home, which demonstrate just what he has tapped into with his music. This is a scene which is going to be replicated again and and again worldwide in 2013.
An hour earlier, a Nando’s dinner under his belt, Lamar does some talking backstage. He’s quiet and polite, a man who doesn’t yet have to travel with an entourage to keep him company or placate his ego.
Right now, says Lamar, the show is about him proving himself. “It’s just me and DJ Ali up there,” he says. “I don’t want to add the band too soon because I really want to go out and show people I can stand alone onstage first rather than showing that I have all this extra help. I still feel I have to prove myself. That’s why I’ve haven’t done the band yet.”
Lamar knows that the ante for hip-hop shows has been upped enormously in recent times. “My first concert, the first show I purchased tickets to go to, was Watch the Throne, he points out. “It was a bittersweet sensation. Man, it’s an amazing show, but how do you top that? What show is going to top that? I jumped straight into going to concerts with a crazy live show.
“To be able to compete with that is going to be a challenge. By the time the Good kid, mAAd city tour comes along, I might have a three-piece band with me onstage to show different sides of the music.”
Good kid, mAAd city is the album which drew the hordes tonight. Sure, there are people here who’ve been digging Lamar since his first mixtapes dropped, but it’s the expansive, ambitious and audacious album from last year that has really put him in line for a close-up.
The tale of a day in the life of a teenage Lamar in Compton, Good kid, mAAd city is a wild, powerful, significant and astonishing thriller, an album which heralds the arrival of a major talent on the scene. His observations about being one of the boys in the hood – and how he managed to go against the grain when it came to peer pressure – makes for an album of finely finessed drama.