After a turbulent Day 2 that could’ve been a festival all in its’ own, it was now time for the final day. Prior to the weekend, it was the day that the people were most excited about as it was stacked from top to bottom. Although traffic caused me to arrive after 5, the whole venue was buzzing about a chilling performance by newcomer, Trippie Redd. Like most other people, I’m faintly familiar with the Ohio native from his viral music videos on social media, but it wasn’t a performance I necessarily had pinned to my whiteboard. Talking with festival-goers who were there to witness it, it seems like my priorities need to be reevaluated.
Some artists I DID plan for and were unable to see, though, were NBA Youngboy and Masego. After signing a controversial deal with Atlantic Records, Youngboy’s ‘Never Broke Again’ dropped and instantly flooded my phone with new playlist tracks. As for Masego, I’ve been a big fan since Sego’s jazzy, ‘Pink Polo EP‘. It’s safe to say I was pretty disappointed to miss the two stars in the making.
Despite missing out on a few favorites, I arrived just in time to see Daniel Caesar. I’m going to keep my review of Caesar’s performance short, as I plan to cover his tour stop in Las Vegas in full, but to put it plain and simple, he sounds even better live. I’ll let you read that again and allow it to sink in a little bit. The man who’s currently being touted as having the most soulful album out, actually sounds better live. The way he let the guitar bleed right into his captivating vocals was just something that everybody should see at least once in their life. Though it was a great performance, it did feel a little out of place on the line-up. Sure, SZA was able to blend in—but her songs have a certain bounce to them that allows for a good festival set. Caesar, on the other hand, literally had couples chest-to-chest and people on the verge of tears. It was a great showing, but with Vic Mensa & 21 Savage playing in the distance, it just felt foreign.
After checking out Caesar, I caught a brief moment of 21’s set, which came and went, before heading over to see Dom Kennedy. On the way to the show, Kiari, a couple of friends we were riding with and I had a discussion about Dom’s conflicting set with NY native, and recent XXL Freshman, A Boogie With Da Hoodie. They were playing at the same time and somebody was going to be left out. Kiari’s stance was that, he wanted to support the new school. He felt that photos of A Boogie were more relevant at the moment and although Dom was a High School favorite of his, the times had changed.
I told him he was crazy – he wasn’t, that’s actually a very healthy perspective – and that this was Dom’s last hurrah. How could you miss that?! Look, I love Dom; but I’m also a realist. His last two – arguably three – projects were uninspired and lazy….. which is a lot to say about an artist whose best trait was making a lazy flow sound cold as ice. So for me, seeing Dom perform among thousands of people in California was more about nostalgia than it was about who was hot. In a festival that was dominated by newbies, this was the one time throughout the weekend that I was allowed to take a back, and take it back we did. Dom went through a slew of classics, including “This My Type of Party”, “I Love Dom” and a Nipsey Hussle assisted performance of, “Checc Me Out.” But no song, at least to me, rang more than when he played, “Don’t Call Me,” a silky smooth player cut from Dom’s critically acclaimed, ‘Yellow Album’. The crowd went bar for bar with Dom as we all lived out our fondest memories of having our shirts tucked in our jeans… We just thought it looked cool!
Though Dom’s performance was over, the West Coast party was just getting started. While everybody came to see King Kunta close out the festival with one of his iconic sets, the crowd was also treated to a party, sermon, political rally and rap show all rolled into one when Compton native YG took the stage. Donned in a blooded-out flannel and a fedora, YG pulled out the whole repertoire, playing crowd pleasers like, “Toot it & Boot it”, “Really Be’”, and “My Nigga” which might’ve been the funniest song of the festival as white folks of all ages were sweating bullets, wondering if they could join along.
YG said they may not.
At the culmination of what seemed like an hour long party from YG, a chubby white man suddenly walked on the stage and the music stopped. He then gave a supremely racist ran—wait could it be?! Did YG bring out the fucking president of the United States????! No, he didn’t. But the lookalike was going on and on about making America “great” again before YG and co sidelined the bigot and went right into, “FDT” which was without a doubt, for sure the most hyped song performed the whole entire weekend. No exaggeration.
With such a great slate of performers now in the rear-view mirror, it was now time for the main event.
Kung-Fu Kenny. K-Dot. Kendrick Duckworth, aka Kendrick Lamar.
With the entire venue packed the tee with what felt about a million people – seriously, there was zero elbow room – Kendrick promptly got on stage and killed it, but not like I had anticipated. What seemed like a show/opportunity of a lifetime for Chance just 24 hours ago, seemed like a tour stop for Kendrick. Now, I’m not saying it was a bad performance. Actually, I’m saying the opposite as it was amazing. But I’m no fool, and I’m not delusional—Kendrick was not as excited for this show as we were. Still, Compton’s favorite son had complete control over the anxious Anaheim crowd and if nothing else, it should be noted that Kendrick is in fact the greatest rapper alive. While Chance’s overall set the night before was more enjoyable, Chance wasn’t the only reason why his set was so great. But Kendrick? That man had nothing but a mic and a martial artist with him as he never missed not one single syllable while reciting some of Hip-Hop’s most complicated lyrics in otherworldly cadences, & he did it with seemingly little to no effort.
While I think it was unfair to compare the two considering it was Chance’s first time headlining a west-coast festival – Life is Beautiful will be his second – Kendrick’s brilliance was apparent in the way that even with his back against the wall, he’s still the greatest rapper alive. You guys just better hope he doesn’t get inspired – again – to prove it.
All photos taken by Kiari Cook for RESPECT. Magazine.