Live: Kendrick Lamar Arrives In New York, Takes Over S.O.B.'s

Kendrick Lamar
Wednesday, August 31

Better than: bringing back that old New York rap.

"There are two rules for a Kendrick Lamar show. First rule: everybody put one hand up. Now everybody put two hands up." Those were Kendrick Lamar's instructions as he led us into his third song of the night. (He repeated it throughout.) It was an unnecessary run through the rulebook, an airline attendant showing how to use a seatbelt. Hands had been up ever since he touched the stage; the five-foot-six rapper peeked over waves of fingertips, Compton's version of Wilson from Home Improvement.

With Los Angeles firmly in his grip—Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Game all co-signed him at a show there—a friendly crowd greeted Kendrick as he arrived in New York, a French army giving up their arms ahead of the takeover. (Earlier this summer, he'd packed Southpaw.) There are many worse people who can get the keys to the car, and few better.

The industry turned out: MTV cameramen, a BET producer, magazine writers, bloggers, label reps. A-list manager Kevin Liles sat in the back eating a "ten-course meal," as gossip went. Wearing a black "I [heart] New York" hoodie, Kendrick threw his elbow skyward, black power fist held tight. Topped by an on-trend messy high-fade, his face looks young but his brow old: a man in a child's body, his mind surprisingly grizzled for someone his age. He says he wants to be the voice of this generation; no one speaks more to recession-era hopelessness than he does. He raps about the destruction of the society around him, confusion—NWA without the violent undertones. Growing up, his upbringing was imperfect; he re-enacted childhood scenes of his blunted-up parents arguing over the appropriateness of telling a six-year-old Kendrick to not snitch on motherfuckers. (He referred to his father as "an intelligent ignorant motherfucker," his mother, "a gangster.")

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