Event Review: Kendrick Lamar Performs at the 58th Grammy Awards
King Kendrick reigned supreme at this year's Grammy Award show. The rapper led all artist in nominations with 11, and went home with a grand total of five awards including a sweep of all rap categories. This brings Kendrick Lamar's overall career count to seven awards from the academy. A tag line the show constantly used was "Grammy moment", in an attempt to build hype and put things into perspective for viewers. The biggest of these was from Kendrick Lamar's performance.
It starts off with the entire set designed as a prison. Kendrick, dressed in a raggedy blue collar shirt with black printed pants, is the front man in a chain gang slowly making its way to the mic stand. Jail cells are on either side with some occupied by jail attired musicians. "The Blacker the Berry" is the opening song. As the verse ends and the chorus begins, the stage transition into the next song starts with the lights changing showing glow in the dark tribal prints on all the performers clothing. Kendrick slowly and theatrically stumbles over onto an adjacent stage where African tribal dancers are parading around a extremely large bonfire. "Alright" erupts and the performance continues. One shock came when the lyrics "And we hate popo! Wanna kill us dead in the street fosho," were voided out by Kendrick clearly on purpose. His set closes with another stumbling journey back to the original stage where he unleashed an unheard freestyle.
Symbolism was the key to this performance. Starting the set with a prison scene coupled with an African tribal scene next paints a vivid picture of where black culture sadly resides now, and where it originally flourished from. The song selection for each setting matches well with the aggressive "The Blacker The Berry" connected with the jail scene, and the positive "Alright" with the bonfire scene. Linking the two is the line "every race starts from the black, remember that," as Kendrick stands on the prison stage with the glow in the dark tribal markings across his prison uniform. Beyond the scenery his different voice inflections, purposefully highlighted by the music's arrangement cues, help to deliver the raw emotion and harsh tone to the crowd. Even removing the police reference from "Alright" is a smart move. That line has been interpreted in many ways, which would have potentially stole the spotlight and next day headlines from the overall show.
In searching for a stain or tarnish to critique there is a glimpse of one in the closing moments. Performing unheard music is risky due to listeners having a hard time trying to follow along. This combined with the music drowning out some of his sound, the unreleased freestyle was not as gripping. While hearing was an issue, the quick camera cuts did not make it easy on the eyes for television watchers.
Overall, Kendrick Lamar bestowed one of the best "Grammy moments" of the night, fitting perfect with his five wins. Congratulations to King Kendrick!