Everything has slotted smoothly into place for the 10th anniversary of Kendrick Lamar‘s 2012 breakout album ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’. As its creator pulled into Paris on Saturday (October 22) for the latest date of his ‘Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers’ tour, there were also celebrations required for his cousin, fellow Californian rapper and ‘Big Steppers Tour’ support act Baby Keem, who turned 22 on the day.
Amazon Music’s decision, then, to livestream last weekend’s momentous Accor Arena show to the world seemed like the obvious choice. Under the creative guidance of Lamar’s team, the livestream, which was broadcast on Prime Video and Twitch, was meticulously planned: shots were choreographed in detail and captured across 18 cameras, while Lamar’s recent shows in LA and Scandinavia were analysed to help shape plans for Paris. And it all paid off: Kendrick Lamar’s five-star show was a stunning audio-visual display from a true rap great.
Before Lamar’s Paris gig, NME sat down with Amazon Music’s Timothy Hinshaw (Head of Hip-Hop and Rap), Kirdis Postelle (Global Head of Artist Marketing) and Sean McMullan (Director of Artist Products and Services) to discuss their vision for Prime Video’s Kendrick Lamar Live: The Big Steppers Tour.
NME: October 22, 2022 marked the 10th anniversary of ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’. What is the lasting legacy of Kendrick Lamar’s second album?
Timothy Hinshaw: “It was the first record that captured what it was really like to grow up in Compton. Before that album, it was like everybody in Compton had these glasses on, we wore baggy jeans… and everybody had a lowrider, right? Then that album came out and it was like, ‘This is an actual depiction of life in Compton’. It was a very honest body of work, and I think that’s why it still holds true to this day.”
As someone who’s also from Compton, what does it feel like watching Lamar’s phenomenal rise?
TH: “There’s videos of Kendrick in the projects rapping. To see him go from that, where everyone in his neighbourhood knows this kid and the songs he’s singing, to being in Paris and seeing this full-to-capacity arena sing every word… That ignited a fire in me when I was trying to break into this business, like, ‘If he can do it, I can accomplish my dreams’. He is a global superstar, but he’ll also show up in Compton and give back to the neighbourhood.”
What was behind the decision to livestream the Paris show instead of one of Lamar’s recent North American live dates?
TH: “It was just the story around it, the 10-year anniversary [of ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’]. The timing is always important for Kendrick and [his creative collective] pgLang: October 22 kinda lined up perfectly, and it’s also Baby Keem’s birthday. The story there, you can’t beat it… very romantic vibes.”
How did the preparations for the Paris livestream pan out?
Sean McMullan: “We’ve worked really closely with the pgLang team to make sure that we’re bringing this production to life in the right way, all the way down to the font size on the marketing. We also have exclusive merch that comes with it, so we’re trying to take a 360-view on every event we do.”
What has the response to ‘Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers’ been like on Amazon Music?
TH: “When Kendrick first dropped [the album], he broke records on Amazon Music. It was really inspiring for us to see, just from a growth standpoint as a service… a lot of the other [streaming services] crashed that night, and everybody was coming to Amazon Music. We were the ones that championed and saved the night. So that was a really great thing for us.”
SM: “We’re just getting started. The livestreaming, the merch business, they’re all still really new for us – so tonight’s a really important moment. But there’s a lot more to come.”
How do you go about selecting artists for Amazon Music’s livestreams?
TH: “It’s mainly about building organic relationships between Amazon Music, Rotation [Amazon Music’s hip-hop and R&B brand] and artists. We never want to stand next to anything that feels forced, mainly just out of respect for the artist. We wanted to collectively build this from the ground floor in an organic way; to be able to stand next to a Kendrick Lamar, a Tyler, the Creator, or a J. Cole authentically.”
How important are accessibility and community focus to Amazon Music?
TH: “We do a lot of community work. We have a partnership with 21 Savage and his financial literacy programme, which sits kids from the inner city down and talks them through the dos and don’ts of finances. Being able to be a part of those conversations is top of my focus.”
Kirdis Postelle: “For our livestream series Hello, My Name Is, we partnered with a business [in Leimert Park, LA]. We shoot our show out of a local coffee shop there which is Black-owned, we hire a Black production company in a Black-owned business from a Black neighbourhood. It’s important for Amazon Music and Rotation specifically to show up in communities and be a part of the culture in a real, true and honest way.”
Amazon Music recently announced a new post-Thursday Night Football livestream series. How does the vision for that series align with that of the individual live shows?
KP: “For us, it’s all about building and delivering an audience to artists that wouldn’t ordinarily have access to that audience. So when Prime Video got the deal for Thursday Night Football, we were kind of like, ‘Huh, I bet that’s an audience we could deliver to artists, too: we could probably create the biggest promotional opportunity for artists ever if we can bring some of those viewers from Thursday Night Football along’. We know how big it is and what the opportunity is, but the artists don’t… they wanna be on Saturday Night Live! So this is some of the hardest work I’ve ever done, but I think it’s gonna be some of the most rewarding.”
‘Kendrick Lamar Live: The Big Steppers Tour’ is available to watch on-demand via Prime Video now