From Rolling Loud Miami: Kendrick Lamar Creates His Own Narrative | Arts
Few musicians are as dedicated to putting on a show as Kendrick Lamar proved to be at Rolling Loud Miami last weekend. The 35-year-old rapper from Compton closed the three-day festival with a cinematic hit of a setlist, weaving a cohesive narrative through both his acting and his rapping. Simply put, Lamar put on a unique and unforgettable show in Miami on Sunday.
Wearing a crown of thorns, Lamar took to the stage as the visual embodiment of his 2022 album “Mr. Moral & The Big Steppers. The costume referenced artwork from his latest album and represents a study in imagery religious and artistic depictions of “hood philosophies,” according to creative collaborator Dave Free.Despite these larger-than-life allusions, Lamar’s lyrics made it clear that his personality was a mimetic allegory of his personal struggle and perseverance rather than the personification of a savior figure. In performing songs like “Savior,” for example, Lamar emphasizes that great artists — J. Cole, Future, and himself — are only human.” The cat came out out of the bag, I’m not your savior / I find it just as hard to love your neighbors,” the rapper said in Miami with backing vocals from Baby Keem and Sam Dew, calling on those who hold him to God-like Standards.
As the concert kicked off with “N95,” the stage was flooded with backup dancers dressed in jumpsuits and face masks — a nod to Covid-related tropes in the song‘s lyrics. Lamar himself took part in the game, guiding the audience like an orchestra conductor during the introductory lines “Hello, new world, all the boys and girls / I got some true stories to tell”. The choreographed scene continued to act as a living, breathing extension of his lyrics, as the dancers paraded along to “N95’s” lyrics “You steppin’ or what?”; moshed on stage for the chorus of “mAAd city”; and stopped on the melody of “ELEMENT”, closing in on Lamar like the crowd of haters he raps about.
Every aspect of his set design contributed to the narrative, right down to the LED screen, which illustrated the transition slides from “Kendrick Have A Dream” to “Backseat Freestyle”, “Rich Spirit, Broke Phone” to “Rich Spirit” and “Compton, USA” in “mAd city”. The live camera feed displayed behind him, shot from multiple angles with a film-like sepia filter, cutting in time with the beat, only added to the cinematic and audiovisual experience of Lamar’s set.These displays served both to structure the set chronologically and to excite the audience before the beat of the next song dropped.
Lamar’s rapping technique wowed the crowd, who watched in awe as the multi-Grammy award-winning artist shifted effortlessly from track to track, not taking time to breathe between the frantic flows of “King Kunta ” and “LOYALTY”, for example.
The high energy of his performance was matched by the crowd, with multiple mosh pits forming to the deep sound of the 808s. The excitement intensified when Lamar brought out Kodak Black to perform their song “Silent Hill”. The crowd went wild at the sight of these two legends on the same stage for the first time – especially since Black is originally from South Florida. Crucially, the performance also came after Lamar faced backlash from some fans for including Black on the album in light of the rapper’s rape and sexual assault charges stemming from a sexual assault case. in 2021 and a subsequent plea deal. (Black was subsequently granted the commutation by then-President Donald Trump.)
Still, Lamar made sure the rapper felt welcome, even getting him to do some dance moves on the chorus.
It wasn’t the last appearance the Sunday crowd saw; “Everyone! Energy!” shouted Lamar’s cousin, Baby Keem, as he returned to the stage to perform “Family Ties” for the second time that day. Much speculation swirled throughout the day that Lamar would bring his cousin and tour partner out. The anxious crowd got exactly what they wanted in an explosive performance that proved why the song won Best Rap Performance at the 64th Grammy Awards.
“My name is K.Dot, Kendrick Lamar, Oklama. I love you all,” Lamar said at one point.
Switching between characters from previous albums, Lamar performed a musically chronological performance that represented his journey and growth as an artist. While K.Dot from 2017’s “DAMN” focuses on spitting bars to prove his ambition and represent the youth of the Compton neighborhood through songs like “HUMBLE.”, Kung Fu Kenny from “To Pimp A Butterfly is a more lyrically sensitive rapper who takes his time capturing the poetry in “Alright.” The majority of his Rolling Loud set was devoted to the character of the tall stepper, who has the wisdom and experience to know his limits and work on his flaws – like in “Count Me Out”, where Lamar’s ruminations come to light. in the lyrics “Even my strengths couldn’t survive / If I didn’t learn to love myself.
There are great musicians and there are great performers. With this performance, Kendrick Lamar proved he was both. When he left the stage, his crowd of backup dancers parted for him like the Red Sea – not out of biblical reverence, but out of respect for his artistic genius.
—Editor Alisa S. Regassa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @alisaregassa.