Opening for the most acclaimed hip hop artist of the year isn’t an easy ask for some up-starters. Rascals didn’t do too badly all told. This is a project that has been making waves for years and has recently secured a major-label status with EMI and Virgin. They spit with a angst and ferocity but pair the bars with hooks that would fit on on releases from Tinie Tempah. The songs are radio-ready- catchy hooks, swift breaks, and beats that fit perfectly in to the zone of nu-RnB that is taking over the world at the moment. Singles like ‘Fire Blaze’ are ultimately what is getting this collective this kind of attention. Nods from MTV are just the tip of the iceberg- there is a reason Rascals were hand picked to open for Kendrick Lamar. These singles carry colossal production and provide a perfect pointer at where UK urban music is at.
Then comes Kendrick Lamar. The man who gave us ‘good kid m.A.A.d city’ which was revered as a saviour of hip hop and one of the best LPs of 2012. When Kendrick takes to the stage there is utter hysteria. Songs like ‘m.A.A.d City’ and ‘Backseat Freestyle’ provide everything you’d want from a hip hop show. Frenetic energy, aggressive hooks and ballsy beats. No song provides this just like ‘Backseat...’ the Hit-Boy produced track which contains the phrase ‘I pray my dick get big as Eiffel Tower, so I can fuck the world for 72 hours...’. There’s little left to be desired with Kendrick Lamar. Whilst the record was a narrative beast of story telling, this show is a straight flex. The tracks like ‘Art Of Peer Pressure’ and ‘Sing For Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst’ are left on record for the precedence to be taken by Kendrick’s bangers. Even a performance of a cut from ASAP Rocky’s debut record adds to the fever in the crowd. He oozes showmanship and swagger. His bullish flow and addictive hooks make for an electrifying live show. This one man has released an LP that bridges that gap between aggressive party-starting rap music and honest poetic craftsmanship.
There is no question on the part Kendrick now plays in modern 21st century hip hop but his peers will be quaking in their boots. His record proved he can tell stories and break lyrical boundaries but this snowy evening at the O2 Academy showed he can start a party like the rest of them, maybe even a better one.
Words: Duncan Harrison