Russ and I headed to see Kendrick Lamar do his Austin City Limits taping live at the Moody Theatre downtown. I was looking forward to seeing this taping because 1.) I’ve never seen a rapper on Austin City Limits and 2.) To Pimp A Butterfly was one of the best albums I’ve heard this year. Kendrick’s performance did not disappoint in the least. Rap, and particularly conscious rap, has always been a very personal thing for me and something that I usually listen to in a relaxed environment. I enjoy the fact that I can sit down with a pair of headphones and dissect the lyricism, and listen back again only to pick up a new reference or new perspective each time. I wasn’t sure how this all would translate in a live setting. Also, I’d only been to one other live rap show, so I didn’t really have a clue what to expect. The energy created during this show was a totally different feeling from the perspective of sitting down and listening to his records alone. It was much more powerful. The depth of the words is still there, but you are in a room with thousands of other people that are also massive fans. Kendrick Lamar walks a line that most can’t toe, by uniting pure lyricism with a mainstream audience appeal.
His band was very impressive. He had a keyboard player, a guitarist, a bassist and a phenomenal drummer backing him. They were all amazing and laid down a nice foundation for Kendrick to rap over. The band came out first and started playing. Then Kendrick walked on stage and started things off with “For Free?”. K Dot’s ability to spit such lyricism while traversing all genres of music left me in state of stare for most of this live taping. Some other notable songs from the set were “These Walls”, “Maad City”, “Swimming Pools” and my personal favorite “The Blacker The Berry”. There were too many memorable moments to list them all; it was a fantastic set. The positive vibes and energy that was given off during the show were quite an experience. The people-watching during this show was the best that I’ve encountered at an ACL taping. Everyone was very much into his music and the demographic spanned from end to end. During the set, he performed his song, “Complexion” which really spoke to the depth of his message and being able to reach such a diverse group of people. It’s really cool to me how such a seemingly personal project, like To Pimp A Butterfly, can reach and ring true with so many people.
Another fascinating aspect of the performance was his crowd interaction and his ability to control the crowd, getting everyone involved. The crowd favorite and final song of the set “Alright” had the crowd chanting the chorus before K Dot even had a chance to leave the stage and come back out to perform it as an encore. He brought the volume from a whisper to roar, and up and down again in a matter of seconds. A true artist graced the stage on Friday. He’s a master of his work and a voice for a generation. All in all, it was unforgettable. I’m very grateful to have been able to attend such a memorable gig. I didn’t think I could have any more respect for him, but seeing Kendrick Lamar do his thing live and in person was pretty unbelievable.