Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul
Sept. 12, 2012
It was the kind of crowd one doesn’t often see on Charlotte’s hip-hop scene: primed, standing-room only and eager to dance — or at least, bust a two-step with the screw face. Opener Jay Rock commented on
the diversity of the attendees: college-age and older, with a healthy mix of street and boho elements —
natural-hair lifestylers stood bumper-to-bumper with girls in lacefronts and 6-inch heels.
“This is what I like to see. Different colors, with music bringing us together. I’m from the projects, but I want you to know y’all are just like me, and I’m just like you,” Rock said, before launching into “Just Like Me,” a slow-burn manifesto against gang banging.
Stalley and Ab-Soul also did their thing, with Soul drawing boos for greeting “Charlottesville, North Carolina, mane!” A speedy apology later, and he proceeded to rock the show like he was the headliner. The slight-framed rapper, in all red and shades with a shag puff hanging out the back of his cap, recalls a young Eazy E, until you start processing the street talk, math, revolution and sex rhymes he tosses with equal aplomb. He managed to rail against SOPA, encourage voting (“Fuck Mitt Romney”), remember Alori Joh—his best friend and vocalist who died earlier this year of apparent suicide—squeeze in nine songs and plug his upcoming release, Control System, all within a half-hour set. I suggest you cop that.
Lamar walked dead into his set rapping, no intro, and the crowd screamed along, word for word. His voice gravelly and energy high, he went straight for the wide vein of angst, horniness and vulnerability that has helped him rise so fast. Then he switched gears. “I’ma play what’s in my iPod,” he said, as the first notes of J. Cole’s “Perfect for Me” rang out. He managed to look convincingly surprised when Cole stepped out onstage to join him. The effect on the crowd was like cranking up the volume to Spinal Tap’s 11.
“Can I do some shit for y’all? I got a lot of shit sitting around that probably won’t see the light of day,” Cole asked, before seguing into an unreleased verse that included him boasting how he went from straight A’s to A-list. Cole threw himself into a performance of “Can’t Get Enough,” but just when it seemed poised to become a J.Cole show, he gave the mic back to Lamar. “Y’all know you bought tickets to see the future tonight, right?” he called as he left the stage.
“I don’t even know what to do after that,” Lamar joked sheepishly. “Y’all still want me to keep going?” He brought the energy down with the R&B-tinged “Women Weed Weather,” and re-established crowd control with his ode to alcohol, “Swimming Pools.” His encore, latest single “Cartoon & Cereal,” was one of the most powerful songs of a night full of surprises.
"You was holding the handgun, she was giving birth/To a baby boy to be just like you, I wonder what’s that worth/I wonder if you ever knew you was a role model to me first/The next day I woke up in the morning, seen you on the news/Looked in the mirror, then realized I had something to prove/You told me 'Don’t be like me, just finish watching cartoons.’/ Which is funny now cause all I see is Wile E. Coyotes in the room/And I run it."