Live Review: Kendrick Lamar – House Of Blues (12/29)
Photo Cred: Grant Tucker of SCKNOWS
The amended version of this article originally appeared in the Houston Press.
There have been many monumental moments in House Of Blues rap history. There was Jay-Z’s show in 2008 that christened the venue and kickstarted its now four year run as one of Houston’s eminent music halls and Trae Tha Truth’s Street King show in June 2011 that possibly ranks as the peak of local artist dominating one stage.
Yet, Kendrick Lamar might have outdone them all.
Vocally a bit drained after performing an hour plus long set down the road at Warehouse Live, the 25-year old Compton, CA emcee did his best Adrian Peterson impersonation in front of a more than swollen crowd as part of Scoremore Shows “2 Shows 1 Night” campaign that was not only a success, it was a massive tipping point in not only their work ethic but Lamar’s ever increasing popularity.
I’ve made the trek through the Houston Pavilions on numerous occasions. Never have I seen a scene that resembled what occurred around 9:40 PM near the upstairs entrance to HOB’s large stage. There’s such a thing as a line snaking around a building, plenty of people said it snaked around twice at Warehouse but have you seen a line that swallowed up two floors and stretched from end to end? That’s Lamar’s newfound drawing power, the ability to sell out a quickly announced second concert that featured siren Jhené Aiko.
If DJ Mr. Rogers is warming you up for a show as he did twice Saturday, be prepared for a few things – namely the random drops of MTV circa their “Actually Played Videos Here”-era of rock tracks in the middle of his eclectic Texas to Cali to old school hip-hop set. Saturday gave us Guns N’ Roses “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and constant shoutouts that mix humble bragging along with dashes of singularity. He introduced the lovely Aiko who by the moment she hit the stage gave every male in attendance the right to swoon over her, some ladies too.
A sprite in size but something etched out of Greek writings vocally, Aiko doesn’t floor people with a gigantic voice but rather a lingering, swaying approach. She cooed on “Higher” about being from California, land of the best weed (we’re not fighting her on it), managed to twist emotions on “My Mine” and a performance of “3:16” while also giving us T-shirt material of “Let me finish drinking my Hennessy and apple juice”.
Thugs drink Hennessy and apple juice out of a Sippie cup, I imagine.
During the close of her set, she proudly announced her kinship to Def Jam, performing “What A Life”, a stirring cover of 2Pac’s “Keep Ya Head Up” and closing with a fan request of “Stranger”. She then jokingly asked said fan for his number. Either he fainted or his friends punched him in jealous rage, either or. It was almost like a woman singing us into a whirlwind of rap emotion. We knew it was coming yet invited it like some silly West Coast music gluttons.
A slow “Kendrick” chant trailed the lips of the faithful, a crowd packed to the point where slight elbow movements probably would result in at least two fights and plenty of weave amongst the usual assortment of dropped plastic cups, spilled liquor and beer cans. Once Lamar’s engineer and tour DJ Mixed By Ali cued up “Westside, Right On Time” – time froze for a moment. Then King Kendrick arrived and arguably the loudest roar I’ve ever been witness to at House Of Blues emitted from those in attendance.
Lamar’s set nearly mimicked the one at Warehouse, yet it felt almost like a stand alone story by itself. He warned us that we might be fighting once “m.A.A.d City” dropped and urged the house lights be brought up so we could all see each other. However, the antsy jumped the damn gun and two women spilled out into a fight during a slight mosh of “Money Trees”. How you fight to the most laid back track not named “Poetic Justice” is beyond me – but that’s a crowd for you.
Having caught Lamar cut through Overly Dedicated at a SXSW showcase in 2011, it was clear that the beast had sharpened his skill even further from these eyes. Effortless double-time breath control, constant fan contact, it was quite clear Lamar has stepped up his performance game and invited us all into his city with open arms. A city where “Poetic Justice” got the one hook-one verse pop treatment, “The Recipe” swallowed up Dr. Dre’s verse and made it K Dot’s song as it was intended and “Swimming Pools” intoxicated us all. He bended around a bit from OD’s “Cut You Off” to “Tammy’s Song”, “Hol’ Up” & “Blow My High” from Section.80. He even questioned whether or not the crowd actually liked good kid, m.A.A.d city to which everyone replied with squealed horror because they ate those tracks up like they had studied them from front to back. You could be irked you didn’t get “HiiiPoWeR”, his 2011 breakthrough single from Section.80 but “A.D.H.D” was a furious snap at your throat, so enjoy it.
That’s Kendrick in 2012, a man who got to get creative freedom to drop rap’s most ambitious major label LP and succeeded. His quirkiness even made it to the finale where he once more performed “Cartoons & Cereal” as he did at Warehouse. That song never made an album yet might be the best song of the year.
Quite mad indeed.
Personal Bias: Nobody right now is beating Kendrick in a rap contest. Key phrase: right now.
The Crowd: Mixed, large and loud. Throwed gang signs and hoped they all offended you, ya bish.
Overheard In The Crowd: “She got big titties!” Apparently, that’s code for “I’m safe” whenever a potential fight may break out near you.
Random Notebook Dump #1: Drunk people enunciate every god damn thing at rap shows, especially women. Whether it be some creeper grinding on a drunk chick and hitting the “You Can’t See Me” hand sign in my face or girls openly singing everything “Glee” style, drunk concert people are a strange brood. Plus, some girl attempted to slow grind my back. I doubt she had her shots.
Random Notebook Dump #2: No rap show is complete without the friend-carrying-another-friend-out-quota being met. We hit four Saturday, a non-festival record.