LA NATIVE Kendrick Lamar is the breakthrough rapper of the moment, having gained admiring notices and healthy sales for his major label debut, good kid, m.A.A.d city, a hip-hop concept album which purports to tell the story of his formative years in Compton and his efforts to resist the lure of its gang culture.
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Its lyrical themes and musical cohesion have marked Lamar out as a rapper with serious artistic aspirations, rather than a need to play the big man – not that that stopped him proclaiming his first Scottish date as a piece of history in the making and falling back on hip-hop’s default sexism setting.
Lamar is well connected, with a long list of big name collaborators already, including West Coast luminaries Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg, but his live show was a sparse solo affair, just his assured, unflappable presence on the mike, which he showcased most effectively with a fluent a capella spot to end his set, plus DJ spinning a variety of laidback funk and sunny soul backing tracks.
Lamar eschewed the narrative of his album to jump around between cuts from his earlier work and the biggest numbers from good kid. As the gig progressed and Lamar and crowd warmed up, the basslines got heavier and the raps denser, although nothing else in his set compared to the bite and brief eruption of energy supplied by Backseat Freestyle, a track which taps into the urgency, fervour and excitement of the original Compton crew NWA. The ferocity of that west coast vanguard has largely given way to a leisure class of rappers but Lamar is as worthy a contender as anyone.