One thing that’s for sure is that Kendrick Lamar doesn’t make an appearance in London very often. In fact, this was just his second show in the capital, after performing at the Electric Ballroom back in June of last year. This time, the venue’s capacity was stretched from 1100 to just under 9000. There’s no doubt that the release of his major debut album good kid, m.A.A.d city was helpful in terms of his exposure. Again, Kendrick managed to sell out the entire arena, even if there was torrential snow falling across large parts of England.
As you’d expect, the crowd gave a collective roar when Mixed By Ali entered the stage. We’re used to the DJ playing numerous songs before the show starts, but in contrast, Ali went straight into the menacing catalog of Compton’s brightest prospect. Starting with the first half of “The Art Of Peer Pressure” seemed relevant, as the speakers blasted: “Everybody, everybody. Everybody sit your bitch ass down and listen to this true motherfuckin’ story told by Kendrick Lamar on Rosecrans. Ya bitch.” One could say that there couldn’t have been a better introductory song for the occasion. It wasn’t until the next track that Kendrick actually appeared on stage, as he made a trademark entrance with “Westside, Right Time,” one of the standout leftovers from his latest album.
Continuing where he left off with his previous visit, the rapper enforced the enthusiastic crowd to put three fingers in the air in somewhat of a cult fashion. “It feels good to be home right now, y’all,” was one of his first confessions to London Town. A string of tracks followed, with the likes of “Hol’ Up” and one of his first ever songs titled “P&P” among the set list. At the point when Kendrick spoke on A$AP Rocky’s debut album, the crowd became slightly anxious. The majority of people knew that the Harlem elite had been in the area over the past week, so the possibility of him joining the stage wasn’t something to be dismissed. Although there was no appearance from Rocky in the end, Lamar managed to craft his very own verse on “Fuckin’ Problems” for the delight of their recent success. He later explained the particular connection he felt with his fans, which was evident in the way that the crowd was singing along to every word, even if he was staged on the opposite side of the North Atlantic Ocean. “A.D.H.D” was next up, as Kendrick had the crowd chanting: “Fuck that” through one of his most troubling and conscious efforts. If you’ve ever attended a show by the Top Dawg Entertainment general, you’ll begin to come to terms with his attempt at ending almost every song with an acapella version, which gives him the perfect opportunity to grasp the crowd’s full attention.
It was only a matter of time before Kendrick acknowledged someone individually. After a female made herself known as Becky, she was followed with the question of: “Do you have a boyfriend? Are you faithful to him?” K-Dot then asked the entirety of the room to give her another name, which was responded with different figures from his well-established projects. This gave him the chance to move freely into “Tammy’s Song (Her Evils),” a track from his Section 80 offering about the actions of two different women. Since he began to work with the legendary Dr. Dre, the track “Look Out For Detox” became a popular song for those who weren’t quite familiar with his presence yet. Kendrick proceeded to perform that very offering, notably enticing the crowd with his quick wit and intentional close eye to effort. After the furious performance that was given, it was time for for the atmosphere to turn down a notch, as Kendrick asked for complete silence for his personal satisfaction. “Money Trees” was then put into rotation, continuing the prolonged significance of the crowd’s powerful voice. Relating to the performance was a gesture of the work and craft that had been put into his work over his whole career, which was greeted with appreciation from those who had been following his journey since day one. All of a sudden, the entirety of the Hammersmith Apollo came together for a collective moment of excitement, which could only mean that the Hit-Boy-produced “Backseat Freestyle” was on the horizon. As the song progressed, it was hard to believe that the speakers were truly allowed to hit the certain levels that it achieved, as the crowd sang along to every word in the middle of a hip-hop frenzy.
There was a change in the overall vibe at this point, after the heartfelt “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” was met with a breathtaking response. The words: “Sometimes I need to be alone” are always going to capture the true essence of your following, and London certainly proved that statement. Throughout the night, Kendrick paid close attention to a member of the crowd who seemed to feel slightly intimidated, reassuring that he needed to loosen up slightly. “Poetic Justice” kept the slow momentum that was built over the course of the last song, similar to its effect on the actual full-length disc. Ali’s trademark usage of their “HiiiPoWeR” and “Top Dawg Entertainment” taglines certainly set the tone before each track began.
His proximity was far from over, as we were reminded of the culture’s greats, such as Snoop Dogg and his very own mentor Dr. Dre. “This is not a concert, it’s a party,” was embodied into the minds of each and every person in the room. Before Kendrick moved onto the hard-hitting “m.A.A.d city,” his name echoed from wall to wall after a moment of silence, and possibly a realization of how far he had come as an artist. Considering the snow and coldness in the streets of the capital, the 25-year old was left with saying: “It’s hot as hell in here!” As the show gradually crept into the final stretch, Kendrick performed “Chapter Six,” “The Recipe,” and “Cut You Off” in a period of quick succession. The fact that a mixture of songs from each of his four critically acclaimed projects were played was certainly a strong emphasis in terms of the set list. There was one last thing that needed to be done, which was the inclusion of “HiiiPoWeR,” a clear symbol of what his team lives by on a daily basis. The commercially successful “Swimming Pools (Drank)” managed to keep the crowd in full voice, with everyone holding their drinks proudly into the visual spotlight. All seemed to be over after we were taken on a roller coaster to an acapella version of 2009’s “I Am (Interlude),” but it was obvious that the crowd needed to leave on a high.
Like his previous visit to the country, K-Dot returned to the stage for an encore performance of “Cartoon & Cereal,” a track that always seems to make the crowd lose their minds at whatever arena in the world. Lamar’s final words gave us hope of a return in the near future, reigniting that however much success he receives, London will continue to see the best of them.--