At this year’s CMJ Music Marathon & Film Festival, in which hundreds of musical performances, afterparties, and few indie film screenings like Michael Rapaport‘s Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest invaded New York City, last Saturday held a major line-up featuring Kendrick Lamar at the Gramercy Theatre. Hosted by Karen Civil and Angela Yee, the performance was tailor-made for the new school and veterans of hip-hop to shine in the limelight. Dawn Richard from Dirty Money, Connecticut’s Rich Hil, New Orlean’s Chase N. Cashe, Taylor Gang affiliate Neako, Brooklyn-bred, cocaine rapper Troy Ave, and Toronto natives The Airplane Boys delivered their music samples to a hungry crowd just waiting to see Kendrick.
But it’s a shame many people were too focused on the night’s main event than at the talent upfront. If you were, they left an impression that deserved the attention. Among them, Dawn Richard’s voice entrancing while Troy Av’s hustler tales had everybody shouting out “Powder” at the end of his performance. Still, the crowd was too eager for Kendrick, even starting a raucous chant for him to hit the stage that pushed Maino’s scheduled appearance aside.
With plenty of time for the young Kendrick to come alive, his strong online fan base was clearly in attendance, constantly rapping along verse after verse. Blending Compton’s gangster roots with his introspection, melodic raps and a fluid delivery, he certainly met expectations and exceeded them with his live performance. “If you don’t give a fuck, put your hands up,” he said, before starting off with “Fuck Your Ethnicity” off Section.80, a song that set the tone for the whole show. To Kendrick, we weren’t fans or supporters. We were family.
Kendrick was not your typical artist who ran through a myriad of song selections in a given time. Taking his fan’s moniker of ‘family’ to its fullest description, he would always pause to engage in conversation with everyone. “I like to let my shows breathe; talk to the people for a bit,” he said. These catching up sessions reminisced on key moments in his life and childhood memories. In particular was when he was six years old, he listened to his father give a motivational talk about growing out of poverty to pursue better things. Another was his mother’s reaction to giving this kind of tough love at a young age. Funny jokes and theatrical moves (he sat in a chair and impersonated both his parents), led to “A.D.H.D.,“ a song that speaks to the current generation and shows his individuality and skill as a rapper.
Throughout the night, Kendrick continued to show thanks to an audience who appreciated music that had “no major budget, no radio” promotion. Overly Dedicated mixtape tracks – “P&P,” “Ignorance Is Bliss,” and “Alien Girl” – had a good part of the crowd singing along to his lyric heavy musical style. Beat drops for in-and-out acapellas, especially for the buzzworthy “Rigamortis” and “Ronald Regan Era,” placed him in an upper echelon of rappers who spit dizzy flows with a whiff of sincerity.
Kendrick is becoming one of hip-hop’s full-fledged stars who can entice you live. But he’s not one to ignore where he came up from. He jumped on Twitter during the show and asked everyone to tweet him their song suggestions. With so many faces glowing from the dim light of their cellphones – all hurried to tweet while some just shouted song titles – its evidence that Compton’s latest product can live up to the hype. The J.Cole-produced “HiiiPower” had everyone holding up three fingers, which not only represents heart, honor and respect, but also a dedication that his family will never leave his side.
Photography: Far Fetched Future
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