Review: Kendrick Lamar live at Electric Ballroom 26/06/12

Over the last twelve months, no rapper has been as consistently brilliant as Compton’s Kendrick Lamar. His third full length project – Section.80 – was arguably 2011’s best rap album, he outshone heavyweights Game, Drake and MMG on their own songs, and earned a deal with Dr. Dre himself.

While yet to make the breakthrough to mainstream success, K. Dot has been anointed the future of the West Coast. The title may be accurate it also feels restrictive. This is an artist working well outside of any geographical limitations, crafting music that resonates with people all over the world.

Of course, there’s a vast difference between making quality music and being able to connect with a live audience, a pitfall that many acts face in the era of the bedroom musician. Lamar appeared on stage as the opening strains of the “F*ck Your Ethnicity” began to play and almost immediately removed any doubts about his skills as a performer. His intricate rhymes were delivered with the same precision as the studio version and his infectious energy didn’t let up once throughout the night.

He ran through a mixture of songs from all three of the projects he has released so far. One of the most impressive aspects of Lamar’s music is its variety – he has songs that can make a whole room go crazy like “Look Out for Detox” and more considered, reflective songs like “Cut You Off”, yet always displays his lyrical dexterity. Whatever was being performed, most of the audience knew every word and rapped along, sometimes drowning out the rapper and the thunderous bass from the venue’s sound system.

Seemingly stunned by the response he was getting from the crowd, Lamar handed over control of the show and asked what songs they wanted to hear. The die-hard audience went for some of his earliest work, songs that the Compton rapper said hadn’t been performed for a long time, but he still managed to deliver them flawlessly.

His major label debut, good kid, m.A.A.d city, is scheduled for release this October and he performed its first single, the Dr. Dre featured “The Recipe”, before departing the stage. It served as a reminder that while he has made some brilliant music already, we may have only seen glimpses of what he is capable of. He returned to perform one of this year’s standout rap songs, “Cartoon & Cereal”,  as an encore for the adoring fans present.

The show lasted slightly longer than an hour, which felt short considering some had waited over two and a half hours for his arrival on stage. He definitely has enough material to extend the running time – a personal gripe was that he didn’t perform two of Section.80’s highlights, “Rigamortis” and the J. Cole produced “HiiiPower” – which only made the brevity more disappointing.

Towards the end of his set the 25-year-old talked about his ambitions. “My plan is to win your hearts before I win a Grammy,” he declared. He’s already won the hearts, that Grammy may not too be far away.

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