Williamsburg Park was packed to capacity last week for the Kendrick Lamar show, despite tickets coming in at over $50 and multiple cancelations/rumors of rescheduling. To the audience of young fans – about 60% of which were female — it wouldn’t have mattered if it was 100 degrees and raining. They were here to see Kendrick.
Jay Rock came to the stage but few people seemed to notice. As a few die hard fans rapped along, most of the now sweaty audience counted down to Kendrick. Ab Soul performed some of his best – “Terrorist Threats” was a personal favorite – but he didn’t see much enthusiasm from the women in the audience.
As soon as Kendrick came on stage, the energy totally changed. Everyone immediately took out their phones to catch the first shots of Kendrick in a NY hat by ___. The crown was on, and the king was in the building.
Kendrick used a live band to his full advantage. I was reminded of the Roots playing with Jay Z for his unplugged session. Live drums, guitar and piano inspired Kendrick to remix his hits, such as “Swimming Pools,” to be more soulful, lyrical and much more interesting. I loved his melodies before, but when he went a little Jamaican on “Money Trees” for a reggae-tinged sing-along, I was hooked just like the other 7,000 screaming fans. Even the most hard-hitting beat to “Fuckin’ Problems” got the live-remix treatment, adding a pop-rock element to a very ratchet song.
By the time Kendrick proclaimed “There are Levels to this shit” (a jab at Meek Mill) people had already been chanting for “Control” for an hour. But in the end, he didn’t need to spit about how he was the King of New York. The sold out $50-a-pop show, the fans chanting every line to “Backstreet Freestyle” and the total ownership of a giant Brooklyn stage proved it better than any verse could.