It was -3°C, on a bitingly cold and snowy Mancunian night. Me and my accomplice passed the venue, The Ritz, previously a 1920s ballroom, to assess the situation. 7pm, doors open. The queue, full of keen kids submerged in snapbacks, Jordans and supersize creoles, snaked down the street ready to see the newest member of the West Coast rap set. Following in the footsteps of the likes of 2pac, Dre, Snoop, 50 and The Game, Compton introduces… Kendrick Lamar.
After a few swift drinks in a nearby establishment, to take the edge of the January chill and to pump us up for the night, we made our way down to the Ritz. There at 8:20pm, we managed to catch the last snippets of the support. Not being the biggest fans of grime (that Cockney accent just grinds on a Mancunian), we didn’t bother with Scrufizzer, and The Rascals were decent enough to entertain us for half an hour with the help of new found friends, Patrick and Ebo, and our fascination with a guy who was the spitting image of Usain Bolt. But, as the US were gifted with appearances from Dre, The Game and support from Jhene Aiko and two others from the TDE/Black Hippy collective, Ab-Soul and Jayrock, it was easy to be disappointed with a couple of grime MCs with one hit (‘Rap Rave’ – Scrufizzer) and only achieving press exposure from the Guardian’s ‘New Band a Day’ feature (The Rascals).
Back to Kendrick. The crowd was electric with anticipation, the air already heavy with weed and sweat, when Kendrick Lamar storms on stage to ‘Westside Right on Time’, and we all go fucking insane. The first section of the gig is mainly comprised of songs from earlier albums, ‘Section 80’ and ‘O.D’. Kendrick demands to know who’s been with him since day one, before launching into an a cappella version of ‘P&P’. Given the monstrous rupture of the crowd, everyone.
Kendrick’s verse on ‘Fuckin’ Problems’ provides a hiatus from the older back catalogue and the crowd righty goes wild, before Kendrick slows it down with ‘A.D.H.D’ and an a cappella version of ‘Tammy’s Song (Her Evils)’ which allows the crowd to gather their breath.
Then, K.Dot moves through his near platinum selling album, ‘Good Kid, M.a.a.d City’, starting with ‘Money Trees’ and everyone screaming ‘YA BISH!’ when it ends each line. As previously mentioned, as the UK tour was not gifted with support from Jayrock, disappointingly his verse was cut.
When the opening beats of ‘Backstreet Freestyle’ start up, the crowd erupts once more with ‘KENDRICK HAVE A DREEEEAM!’. ‘Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe’ and ‘Poetic Justice’ follow, soothing the vibe once more until Kendrick asks us if we’re ready to go hard or go home. ‘Poetic Justice’ begins and the crowd pushes itself back to form a circle. If you saw Watch The Throne, you’ll know what for. When the beat drops, the crowd surges forward smashing into each other (avoided this) and ripping off t-shirts (not complaining).
‘Chapter Six’ was up next. A surprise as, although my favourite off ‘Section 80’, I would have thought it was too chilled, too depressing and, frankly, not fiery enough for a gig. However, after the madness of the previous song, a change in mood was needed.
Three of K. Lamar’s biggest bangers end the show; ‘The Recipe’, ‘Hiii Power’ and ‘Swimming Pools (Drank)’. Kendrick leaves after another a cappella version, this time of ‘I Am’ from the Kendrick Lamar EP, emphasising how his music touches the whole spectrum of rap, from gangster to slam. Kendrick compares himself to a Spartan, Malcolm X and even Martin Luther King, helping coin the nickname King Kendrick Lamar.
As he saunters off the stage, the crowd explodes in a chant of ‘Kendrick! Kendrick! Kendrick!’ beckoning him back. He responds and launches into his encore of ‘Cartoons and Cereal’, apparently our new friend Ebo’s favourite as he starts grabbing randomers, shaking them and shouting a load of spit and expletives into their happy faces.
It ends. Kendrick strides off to a rapturous applause of cheering, clapping, hollering. The feeling of elation quickly leaves the room as the realisation that the gig is over takes hold. Never ones to dwell, me and my accomplice sneak into the meet and greet area only to be discovered twenty minutes later and escorted out by a squad of Showsec hard men. Yet, never ones to be defeated, especially in a quest to meet Kendrick Lamar, me and my accomplice decide to creep and wait outside his tour bus in sub zero temperatures and snow for Kendrick to appear. Joined by other members of the Kendrick faithful, we figure that sooner or later he has to come back. Makes sense. After half an hour, a little black hooded man, surrounded by TDE henchmen, emerges and bolts for the bus. We see him. For like ten seconds. With our own eyes and everything.
And that was that. We went Mcdo then moseyed on home, happy and thankful to have seen a man who, in time, will be mentioned in the same breath as the heavyweights of hip hop. Rap history in the making.