There’s no easier way to feel like you exist in a bubble than by going to the Melbourne debut of the biggest rapper in the game, as he plays to a sold-out venue. No matter how many times you listen to his latest album or how many plaudits keep flooding in, it’s hard to truly grasp the impact Kendrick Lamar has made on listeners, particularly the youth audience, without witnessing it live. Seemingly every 18- and 19-year-old in the city packed out The Palace, as I entered and attempted to shake off the effects of earlier Christmas drinks. Well, if the world was going to end what better way to ring in the fire and brimstone.
Despite feeling like a bit of a tool wearing an LA fitted cap (actually purchased in LA), my fears were put to rest as I witnessed a sea of Raiders, Dodgers and other LA-related headwear. Apparel aside, there was a tangible energy running throughout the venue, even from the early going. Local support Tuka, also known as part of Sydney’s Thundamentals, had his work cut out for him with all the Kendrick Fever in the air. He managed to keep the energy going for the assembling masses, performing Triple J fodder like ‘Just to Feel Wanted’ and ‘Die a Happy Man’ from his solo debut ‘Feedback Loop’. ARIA Award-winning super-producer M-Phazes spun in between sets and served as the right side-dish to the hysteria that was to come.
Like a hip-hop Justin Bieber (sorry – terrible comparison), Kendrick Lamar elicited a level of hysteria not seen at a hip-hop gig since old-school hip-hop dudes were weeping over LL Cool J at the same venue a few years back. The measured and laidback Kendrick I spoke to earlier in the day was transformed into a fire-spitting dragon by the time he hit the stage. K. Dot held everybody in the palm of his hands with the poise of a veteran and I have to give my fellow crackers credit for knowing the lyrics to seemingly everything he performed. The Compton crown prince ran through all the anthems that have made him so beloved, from early releases Overly Dedicated and Section 80 through to good kid, m.A.A.d city. The atmosphere was intense as I slowly inched closer to the stage, reaching a peak during Swimming Pools (Drank), The Recipe and his guest verse from ASAP Rocky’s Fuckin’ Problems. Hearing a whole collection of people chanting along to Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe and Backseat Freestyle was surreal after having those tracks on repeat for the past couple of months. As usual that feeling of white awkwardness after hearing a white crowd use the n-word at a hip-hop gig was ever-present, at least for this writer. The likeable charisma Kendrick exudes on every track was evident throughout his live presentation and further cemented his place as a leader among men. After one encore the crowd was chanting for more, as he gave what appeared to be a very genuine ‘thank you’ to his assembled disciples.
Photography by Michelle Grace Hunder.