02 ABC, Glasgow, January 16
I won’t name names, but a couple of months back NME spoke to a synth-pop band who boasted about how their new album “flowed like the Kendrick Lamar record”. That’s when we knew it had happened; that the embrace of the 25-year-old Compton rapper by the white hipster establishment had gone from merely stifling to outright asphyxiating, and that every cred-hungry indie musician with a blog to impress now had a new go-to name to drop. Lamar himself, however, is talented enough to withstand all of that shit. “We didn’t run to the mainstream,” he says at one point tonight, “we made them motherfuckers come to us.”
In truth, last year’s major label debut ‘Good Kid, mAAd City’ was always going to find a wider audience. Hell, it deserved one. Lamar’s coming-of-age fable about navigating the tragedies and temptations of a Compton adolescence was a truly special record, but tonight’s set draws just as heavily from 2011’s ‘Section.80’, and the two tracks people go craziest for – ‘Westside, Right On Time’ and ‘Cartoon & Cereal’ – didn’t even make the cut on either. When hype is earned, it’s difficult to fight against. Not that there are many doubters left to silence.
Within minutes of arriving onstage Lamar declares, with customary braggart’s logic, that since “this is my first time here, this is history already!” If that’s the case, history will remember tonight as not only being pretty damn great, but also a long time coming: every test he sets the audience to see who among them “has been fucking with me from day one” is passed en masse. Older tunes like ‘Look Out For Detox’ and ‘P&P’ are met with the same enthusiasm as breakout ones like ‘Swimming Pools (Drank)’ and ‘Poetic Justice’. Each song is welcomed like a classic. Lamar is happy with this, and as he bids the crowd farewell promises that “I will always come back to you motherfuckers”. It’s safe to assume that these motherfuckers will always be happy to receive him.