Photo by LIAM MCKENNA [ENLARGE]
Oh Kendrick Lamar! I often remind myself how grateful I am for his existence and his talent. In the 20-something years that I have been listening to Hip-Hop, no other artist has been able to embody so much of my black experience in America. He is political, hood, eloquent, exceptionally creative and may very well be a genius. So, I was beyond ecstatic to see Kung Fu Kenny live in person last night at the Wells Fargo Center for the Philadelphia leg of the DAMN Tour. Aside from that one meet and greet that radio station Power 99 hosted at Ubiq, the last time I saw Lamar in real life was back in 2012 when he performed Section 80 at a free concert at Penn’s Landing.
The night kicked off with opener D.R.A.M. and his obnoxiously catchy hit “Broccoli.” By the time Travis Scott took to the stage, or should I say took to the enormous flying phoenix above the stage, the crowd was live as fuck. When he performed “Antidote”, pretty much the only song I knew, Scott’s high energy dancing made me almost sure that he would fall off of the bird. Much to my, and everyone else’s delight, it didn’t take long for the Wells Fargo stage crew to dismantle the fowl and set up shop for K. Dot.
Before the man of the hour rose from the depths of the stage, the story of Kung Fu Kenny played out on the big screen. The video showed Kendrick practicing his martial arts, the footage was reminiscent of old school karate moves. The lights when dim and Lamar appeared from behind a plume of smoke wearing an unflattering yellow tracksuit that reminded me of Beatrix Kiddo. Throughout the night, Lamar totally played up the Kung Fu Kenny schtick. During the Rick James-sampled beat switch up of “DNA,” the first song he performed, Lamar was accompanied by what most would be considered to be a ninja who was fully equipped with a sword. For a while the ninja danced/shadowboxed around Lamar until they faced each other and began to battle – Lamar’s weapon of choice being his bars.
Although this was the DAMN Tour, Lamar made sure to play tracks off of his last three albums including “Swimming Pools,” “Money Trees,” and “King Kunta.” Without missing a beat, the crowd, feverishly rapped along to every lyric – including the white kids who had no qualms about dropping the n-word. Despite being a lone performer with no band, backup singers, or DJ in sight, Lamar kept his fans interested with multiple visuals playing on the main large screen. These videos ranged from a rottweiler growling at the camera while “Loyalty” was being performed to a woman with an Afro (that didn’t quite resemble that of Richard Pryor’s) laying spread eagle in front of Lamar with a glowing vagina to the colors of the American flag changing into the lights on a cop car. There were also a handful of martial arts demonstrations, one of which ended with Lamar rapping while hanging sideways from the ceiling.
Lamar attempted to end the night with the black folks anthem, “Alright” followed by “Humble.” When the song ended and K Dot departed the stage 98% of the audience stayed exactly where they were – of course there would be an encore. Kung Fu Kenny capped things off with “GOD”. The song, which Lamar noted as his favorite track on DAMN, was a soft yet braggadocious finish to an electrifying performance. — MELISSA SIMPSON