When Kendrick Lamar tells the crowd “you’ve got the best rapper on the planet on stage right now”, it isn’t the usual empty boasting employed by MCs far and wide.
Having released the most critically acclaimed (and best-selling) hip hop record of 2012, ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’, Dr Dre’s prodigy is the leader of a new generation of rappers, from fellow West Coast stars Schoolboy Q and Jay Rock to New York’s A$AP Rocky.
The 25-year-old Compton native expertly blended self-doubt and self-assertion on the concept album, presenting a lyrically-astounding morality tale based on his formative years, and the choice between either wordly pleasures or religious piousness.
Declaring that he felt at home inside a sweltering HMV Ritz, he showed just why he has managed to “bring the mainstream to us”, beginning with the triumphant Westside Right On Time, Hol’ Up from his debut album Section.80, and his collaboration with A$AP and Drake, ******* Problems.
With the vast majority of the audience seemingly well acquainted with even his rare material, the diminutive star then launched into “the track that got me here”, A.D.H.D, and its familiar refrain, which cannot be printed in a family newspaper!
Bringing proceedings up to the present day, he then unleashed a sequence of tracks that form the cornerstone of good kid m.A.A.d city, including the album’s highlight Money Trees and the verse: “It go Halle Berry or Hallelujah
“Pick your poison tell me what you doing
“Everybody gon’ respect the shooter
“But the one in front of the gun lives forever”
A frantic Backseat Freestyle and the subtle G-Funk of Don’t Kill My Vibe had the crowd in raptures – a high which was maintained with a rendition of his bouncing Californian anthem, Women, Weed and Weather.
This atmosphere gave way to the darkly intoxicating and atonal Swimming Pools (Drank), an introspective look at alcoholism, his own personal battle and his grandfather’s drinking and resulting death.
Following a phenomenal acapella freestyle Kendrick left the stage, but he was soon back with an outing of Cartoon and Cereal, tackling his childhood fears and life on the breadline:
“Now I’m ‘bout to make my mama rich”
He deserves every dollar.