SSE Hydro, Glasgow
11th February 2018
After five long years, Kendrick Lamar has made his long-awaited return to Glasgow. With his last time on stage here being in 2013, following the release of good kid, m.A.A.d city, Lamar has since conquered the world of hip-hop and risen as king, his influence spreading not just musically, but socio-politically as well. With last year’s release of the legendary, Grammy winning rap-album, DAMN., and Lamar’s recent success curating the Black Panther soundtrack, Lamar continues to set the world ablaze. Finally, he brings his fire and passion back to Glasgow. Kendrick takes the stage as his latest alter ego, a nod at Don Cheadle’s character in Rush Hour 2, martial arts prodigy Kung-Fu Kenny.
Recent collaborator James Blake (‘King’s Dead’ with Lamar, Jay Rock, and Future, and ‘Element’ from DAMN.) opens the night with minimalist electronica and emotional vocals. His supernatural voice echoed through the halls of the Hydro for the audience members that showed up to see him play. The layers of ambient keyboards and light percussion reverberate with Blake’s voice, as though he is performing within a cathedral. The set is intimate, enticing listeners to sink into the cadence, an intricate calm before the firestorm about to take place.
It’s not long before the Hydro fills up. And then, it begins.
All attention is on ‘Kung-Fu Kenny’ as he rises from beneath the stage. Pyrotechnics ignite the room, the crowd’s energy and screams following suit and building intensity, as Lamar breaks into ‘DNA’. The entire hall vibes off Lamar’s energy as they do their best to rap along.
If there’s any hip-hop artist who can arouse a crowd with no gimmicks or major props, it’s Kendrick Lamar. With his confidence and natural charisma, just Lamar’s presence is enough to push the energy of the room. The set is mostly bare, a wide-open space accompanied by lights and pyrotechnics, with only the occasional martial-art dancer appearing alongside Lamar. The screens above play shorts that follow along with Kung-Fu Kenny’s narrative, revealing him to be on a quest to seek out ‘The Glow’. The acts are a mix of cheesy kung-fu and suave indomitability, showing Kung-Fu Kenny turning into a turtle to combat a ninja while on his conquest.
Lamar’s repertoire for the night is nothing short of perfect, and the crowd makes no mistake letting him know their ravenous delight. A blend of old and new music, each song is met with the powerful reverberation of voices singing and cheering along. When Lamar begins the intro to ‘m.A.A.d city’, the response is wild. Every person jumps with intense enthusiasm, moshing to the beat, even those seated in the balcony are immediately on their feet. The entire crowd is in motion in the moment, swaying with Lamar as he spits fervent lines.
At the end of Kung-Fu Kenny’s quest, we are treated to the secret of ‘The Glow’. Onscreen, a woman spreads her legs to reveal brilliant light as underlying text reads “where the black is darkest, the Glow will shine brightest”. Lamar receives his trophy to laughter and cheer, before exploding into his final song: ‘HUMBLE’. Master storyteller, kung-fu dream, Kendrick Lamar stakes his place as king of hip hop.
Kendrick Lamar is already booked to perform in Glasgow again, headlining the Glasgow Summer Session at Bellahouston Park on August 29.
Image: Kenny Sun via. Flickr