Kendrick Lamar absolutely killed his performance at the Boston Calling Festival. Even though I should have been completely ecstatic to see him perform, I came to Boston Calling apprehensive of how his performance would turn out since a couple of my friends were telling me that he wasn’t that amazing live. Could it be true? The same Kendrick Lamar who made it cool to be lyrical again? The same Kendrick Lamar who made it cool to rep the West Coast again? The same Kendrick Lamar who made it cool to be a “conscious rapper” again? They must be talking about another rapper.
I needed to witness this first hand, but I had to wait until his set started at 7:45. The day’s lineup was made up of mainly rock, indie pop, electronic, and EDM artists, with the exceptions of Solange and Kendrick Lamar who held it down for the hip-hop and R&B genres. Most audience members I saw were so buzzed that they weren’t even able to tell that their cell phones were vibrating; and really, all of those people just wanted to dance and have a great time with friends. So if the goal was to make people dance and “turn up,” Flume, Flosstradamus, Wolfgang Garner, and Major Lazer, achieved that feat. Kendrick Lamar, not so much.
The only reason why I say that is because that isn’t Kendrick Lamar’s M.O. He has a few tracks that can get a crowd hyped, but before everything, he is a storyteller. Kendrick Lamar opened his set soothing out all of the mosh pit bruises of past performances with the laid-back intro of “The Art of Peer Pressure.” He was quick to get the crowd rowdy with the street anthem, “m.A.A.d City,” but that was definitely the most hype moment of his set. It’s tough to get an audience jumping to a love song like “Poetic Justice” or the auto-biographical story “P&P 1.5,” but he doesn’t deserve to be called a bad live performer because he isn’t just simply a “swag rapper.” The addition of a live band to his performance, added an extra dynamic that couldn’t be felt through headphones.
With a lyrical poet like Kendrick Lamar, he must spit his intricate verses with consistency, move about the stage to acknowledge every section of the audience, and make sure the audience gets the most out of his performance. That’s not an easy task, but Kendrick Lamar isn’t a new rapper. He’s been on the scene since the beginning of the millennium, so he’s not unfamiliar with performing in front of thousands.
The main goal of performing is to get the crowd involved, and during the Kendrick Lamar performance, thousands of hands were in the air, and chants of “Kendrick, Kendrick” earned the crowd a few more tracks. Popularized in the classic Eric B. & Rakim song, “Eric B. is President,” the term MC (master of ceremonies) was redefined as “Move the Crowd.” Ludacris and Lil’ Wayne introduced the definition to the modern hip-hop during the chorus of their 2008 collaboration of “The Last of a Dying Breed.” Kendrick Lamar falls in line with these highly regarded rappers because he had the Boston Calling Festival moving with his amazing and heartfelt set. Ya bishhh!