On September 19, 2012 as part of the BET Music Matters tour, Top Dawg Entertainment presented the lyrical genious Kendrick Lamar as he touched down in Toronto to perform at the Sound Academy. Kendrick last visited The Sound Academy back in June 2011 as he celebrated his 24th birthday. Recently seeing him perform as part of the Under the Influence Tour, it was no surprise as hundreds of fans came out to see the Compton, California rapper at his best. Opening acts for the evening included; Toronto’s own Rich Kidd and Columbus, Ohio collective Fly Union.
Starting off the night was Rich Kidd as he took to the stage performing a handful of songs from his catalogue. Doing a great job of warming up the crowd Rich Kidd performed his newest track “Boiling Point” which was easily one of the best songs from his set. This paved the way for Fly Union as they made their way on stage performing a number of songs. A standout song from their routine was “Gone” which saw a positive response from the audience as well.
The MC for the evening did an excellent job of keeping the crowd entertained as he interacted well with audience members, leading up until Kendrick Lamar’s performance. The DJ also did a great job of keeping anxious fans occupied by playing many great tracks; some of which included: “Drop It Like Its Hot”, “Stay Schemin”, “Shot Caller”, “Actin’ Up” and Schoolboy Q’s “Hands On The Wheel”. Looking around, it wasn’t hard to tell that people were having a good time as they moved along in sync with the music. A large projection screen was also in plain view, strategically displaying Kendrick’s highly anticipated major label debut studio album titled “good kid, m.A.A.d city” which is set to release October 22nd, 2012.
As the night progressed forward without any flaws, the time was now 10:00pm as the venue began to quickly fill. Those standing further back started making their way to the front, bumping into people along the way, all for a chance of getting closer to the main act of the night. However, before Kendrick hit the stage the entire audience had the opportunity to watch a video from BET Music Matters. The video gave a brief introduction to Kendrick as well as showing footage from the G.O.O.D. music and Slaughterhouse cypher. The video also notified us that the BET music awards are right around the corner, airing on Tuesday October 9th, 2012. After the video had finished, the venue became dark, as “Hii Power” came on over the speakers; Kendrick Lamar emerged on stage as the show was officially underway.
Hitting the stage in a black tee, black jeans and a signature black LA hat, Lamar began his onslaught of tracks with a great deal of energy. As he paced across the stage performing “Fuck Your Ethnicity”, cameras and camcorders were held high by crowd members trying to capture any footage they possibly could. Rapping with passion and perfection, up next was the track “Hol’ Up” which comes off Lamar’s independent album “Section.80”. The song was a crowd favorite as several individuals could be seen mimicking every lyric, as they jumped up and down aggressively. Interacting with the crowd, Kendrick jumped into some of his older material by performing “P&P” while the crowd sang along. Slowing things down a bit, he jumped into his song “She Needs Me” to the likes of many.
After going through a few tracks, Kendrick claimed that we were wrong if we thought he was going to come on stage and perform a bunch of songs; he wanted to make a connection with us. Bringing out a stool center stage, he sat down telling us the story of how he went back home and finally got the chance to speak to his Pops. His Father has asked him “How do you manage to think the way you do knowing you’re surrounded by all this drinking, smoking, and gangbanging?” Lamar responded by saying “Truthfully, I really don’t know how I do this shit, but the next time I go to Toronto, I guarantee you they can explain my life better than I can”. His Pops responded with “How is that?” Lamar said “With one particular song” as the beat for A.D.H.D. dropped, fans began cheering loudly; singing the chorus at the top of their lungs. As illegal substances filled the air, the atmosphere inside The Sound Academy at this time was extraordinary to be a part of.
Moving forward, he performed “Tammy’s Song” and than said, “Try and keep up with this shit” as he performed the fast paced, hard hitting track “Look Out For Detox”. Kendrick asked the audience “Who’s been fucking with me since day one? Make some noise” as loyal fans erupted in cheers. We all participated by singing along with Kendrick as he performed “The Spiteful Chant”. Interacting with the crowd yet again, Lamar said “I knew when I wrote this next song it was going to hurt a lot of y’all because at the end of the day your favorite rapper would be dead, cause I killed his ass” This was referring to his track “Rigamortis” as the sound of trumpets and drums filled the venue. Lamar’s “Ronald Reagan Era” followed as crowd members raised their hands and arms towards the sky.
Those who set out that night to see Kendrick perform were in for a major surprise as he brought out Toronto’s very own Drake. Taking the stage by storm, he performed the anthem “HYFR” off his album Take Care. The energy inside the Sound Academy was at an all time high, as ecstatic fans sang along word for word, before Drake left the stage. With the two superstars standing next to each other, it was surreal and a memorable experience since this was my first time seeing Drake perform live. After the surprise appearance, Kendrick jokingly stated that it was going to be tough to top that, nonetheless, he did so as he kept the show going by performing “Michael Jordan”.
Switching things up, Lamar told the audience that he was going to put the show in our hands, as fans requested songs by yelling them towards stage and requesting them on Twitter. Songs included “The Recipe” and “Blow My High” before Kendrick told us he was going to finish the night off by performing some of his favorite tracks. The show might have been coming to an end but the energy from both Kendrick and fans was still very high. Performing his song “Swimming Pools” produced by Toronto native T-Minus, he kept everyone moving as we all sang the chorus together. This was personally one of my favorite tracks of the night while it was evident I wasn’t alone as people around me kept saying how crazy the concert was. Putting his poetic flow on display he finished off the night with his inspirational song “I Am” finalizing the night by saying, “T-Dot, I love y’all”. However, fans were still hungry for more as they chanted Kendrick many times. Emerging one last time, he said “Let’s take it home T-Dot” as Kendrick performed the popular song “Cartoon & Cereal” as the audience went ballistic. Fans showed a great amount of appreciation as they cheered Kendrick off stage.
Performing with passion and clarity throughout his entire performance, Kendrick Lamar never showed any signs of slowing down. With amazing stage presence from the beginning of his set until the end as well as the ability to interact with the audience the entire night, crowd goers left the venue more than pleased. It’s easy to say that this was easily one of the best concerts I’ve had the opportunity to attend. Having Drake as a surprise guest only added to the wow factor. However, the true spotlight remained on Kendrick as he put on a great show for the city of Toronto that night, proving that he is here to stay and is a force that is truly not to be reckoned with.
Check out the album artwork for “good kid, m.A.A.d city” set to release October 22nd, 2012.
Photography By: Andrew Stephenson aka #shotbydrew
Written By: Michael Lavictoire