The crowd at the last night of the Viceland SXSW showcase was over capacity two hours after it began. Fire marshals came and locked out everyone (including some of the performers) from the main stage during Trinidad James’ set. A large amount people milled about in the courtyard downing as much free beer as they could. In the background sound leaked from the stage whiles other MC’s played their sets. The crowd was annoyed but they had no problem waiting two hours to get back in because they did not want to miss out on King Kendrick.
Over a year earlier Kendrick would have been one of those upcoming acts buzzing in the background. He dropped Section 80 which was a great hip-hop release in a year known for great hip-hop releases (everything from a resurgent Juicy J to Danny Brown making missing teeth fashionable). His TDE/Black Hippie compatriot Schoolboy Q would later release his surprisingly assured, “Habits and Contradictions” and suddenly even within his crew Kendrick didn’t seem to be the breakout star.
Then last October, ‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D City’ hit the shelves and became one of the biggest selling releases (not just rap) of the year. Where a lot of ‘conscious’ rappers fail in trying to rhyme away the ills of the world is that they come off preachy, pandering, or boring (take note on all three Lupe Fiasco). Kendrick’s characters are real and very relatable. In a post cheesy hashtag world he’s the first real ‘meta’ mc; his songs can simply be enjoyed at face value as party tracks, taken as an Aesop fable or seen as a bigger critique of larger societal ills
After midnight Kendrick Lamar eventually stepped out on stage and the crowd appropriately went bonkers. He ran through selections from the album and brought out a rambunctious SchoolBoy Q to perform his hit, ‘Hands on the Wheel’. Toward the end of his set he even found time to bring out some C list TDE members. The crowd sung along, waved hands, responded to the coolly barked crowd commands from Kendrick. Kendrick looked at home, running side to side from the stage in a victory lap with an unbreakable smile on his face.