Last Tuesday night Kendrick Lamar took the stage at Brooklyn outdoor venue, Williamsburg Park following opening performances by Brooklyn rapper Bishop Nehru and fellow Black Hippy crew members Jay Rock and Ab-Soul. Lamar, on what seemed like a victory lap following a year of never ending peaks, swaggered his way through feature spots on other artists’ work to songs from his previous few albums, including last year’s major label debut good kid, m.A.A.d city.
His fifth time to the NYC area since then and first since dropping his prickly verse on Big Sean’s “Control” where among other things, claimed himself ‘King of New York’, Kendrick worked his way from either side of the stage insistent on keeping the crowd moving. His black cap emblazoned with white “NY” lettering came across as an olive branch of sorts before asserting it as a crown after stopping the show midway to take a shot at New York peer Meek Mill over his new single, Levels – “There’s one n***a in particular that needs to realize that there’s ‘levels’ to this s**t,” Kendrick barked, “I’m motherf***in’ King Kendrick.”
The rest of the show was more playful. Kendrick was flanked a full backing band that goosed his already potent songs with even more urgency. Tracks like Backseat Freestyle, taken out of their parent album’s meta conceptual context in the live setting, sounded less like songs about a young kid boasting and more like the real thing.
Even favorites were reworked in their live setting, last year’s catchy, “The Recipe” was treated with a dubbed out double time coda that lurched along with menace. The crowd understandably responded generously to Kendrick’s amicable toasting to New York while admitting he never wants to let them down. Well that night, he certainly didn’t.