kendrick-lamar-kennedy-center

Tuesday night, Kendrick Lamar reached deep into the recesses of his brain to transform “Alright”, the politically charged single from To Pimp A Butterfly into a gospel number. Well, technically the song is gospel but Lamar performing with the National Symphony Orchestra made it even more gospel. The performance at Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center was a first in a series of intimate shows planned by Lamar as part of his Kunta’s Groove Sessions and made Lamar only the third musician ever to perform with the National Symphony Orchestra. Before Lamar, Nas had played his debut album, Illmatic with the group in 2014 and Phish’ Trey Anastasio played with the symphony in 2013.

Here’s Julia Cravern‘s take on Lamar’s concert for The Huffington Post:

In 2015, very few artists are making music as complex or ambitious as Lamar’s — something the rapper seemed to acknowledge near the end of Tuesday’s show. Before taking the crowd into “Alright,” the final song of the night, Lamar asked everyone to observe a moment of silence. He then delivered a message to his fans.

“Since day one, it’s always been about doing music that people relate to and people can live their day-to-day lives to,” he said. “And I wanted to go times 10 — I did it on my first album — but I wanted to go times 10 with ‘To Pimp A Butterfly,’ where only a selected few will get to understand it and live by it and learn from it the same way I’m learning from it. So, with that being said, give me something deep.”

You can watch Lamar’s performance of “Alright” with the orchestra above. A YouTube user, Peter Hutchins has uploaded performances of “Mortal Man”, “i”, “The Blacker The Berry” & “King Kunta” to his channel and you can watch all of them there.

Photo: Yassine El Mansouri/Kennedy Center