Emmanuel Omodeinde



Emmanuel is a 21-year-old English Literature and Film student who loves films, TV, books and pop culture. He is particularly interested in postcolonial literature.

The king makes a stunning return to London on the biggest stage

By now you should be familiar with how much of a superstar Kendrick Lamar is. If you are not, where have you been? His latest album DAMN. was both critically acclaimed and commercially successful to date, which included his first number one single as a lead artist “HUMBLE.” He won four out of the seven Grammys he was nominated for at this year’s ceremony, making a total of twelve Grammys under his belt. He is the undisputed king of hip-hop and he proved it to a crowd of 20,000 adoring fans on at the O2 arena in London. Coming off the back of the massive success of DAMN. Kendrick could not stop there. He had been working on the official Black Panther soundtrack album while touring around North America; which he not only curated but also executive produced. The hype then for this concert was real.

I am a huge Kendrick fan. Embarrassingly huge. So much that I had him as my phone wallpaper for months. I cried the first time I saw him perform live. I first saw him in 2015 at Leeds Festival and I was blown away by how much of an incredible experience it was. To Pimp a Butterfly is still my favourite album, ever. For the Leeds Festival performance, he had a live band and they sounded so great. When I saw him again at British Summer Time Festival it was a similar experience; not as emotional, but an even better performance. But on Tuesday it was third time lucky, because he gave the best performance that I have seen live, the second date of a two-day London stop on the European leg of The DAMN. Tour. DAMN. has a much more minimalist approach in its production than To Pimp a Butterfly; but that is not to say that the production is not incredible. Where To Pimp a Butterfly had jazz and funk production and live instrumentation, the production on DAMN. is much more stripped back and bass-heavy. There was no live band or DJ on stage – just Kendrick.

Supporting Kendrick was James Blake who had collaborated with Kendrick on “ELEMENT.” and the recently released track from the Black Panther soundtrack “King’s Dead.” I missed most of James Blake but I managed to get to my seat and catch a couple of songs. I was not too gutted as I had already seen James Blake headline Field Day Festival in 2016. When James Blake finished his set the anticipation was palpable. A huge black curtain with the words “DAMN. THE DAMN. TOUR” covered the stage and fans eagerly hurried to their seats. Before long the curtains lifted and on a large screen on stage played the short film which accompanied the album “The Legend of Kung Fu Kenny.” A slightly tongue-in-cheek take on Chinese martial arts films featuring Kendrick as a Kung Fu warrior on a quest, it played at different intervals during the set. Kendrick appeared on stage resplendent in a regal white robe looking angelic, godly even. He began with a bang performing the fiery “DNA.” A track which blew my mind when I first heard it. He did not quite match the studio version considering the vocal effects and editing involved in making that track a Molotov cocktail, but he spat the bars with incredible dexterity and breath control.

The set was expertly constructed. There were brief interludes where pre-recorded vocals repeated “ain’t nobody praying for me” a recurring line on the album. He did not just perform tracks from DAMN., he also performed “Goosebumps” a track he features on by Travis Scott and “Collard Greens” by label-mate ScHoolboy Q. He also performed songs from his back catalogue including “King Kunta”, “Backseat Freestyle” and “Money Trees.” For “FEEL.” He simply had a performer dressed as a ninja with a blade performing incredible dances moves to the instrumental. When that ended he appeared on another stage, the golden circle, and performed “LUST.” with lucky fans surrounding him, and while he performed the stage rose and a cage formed around him.

For one of my favourite tracks on DAMN., “PRIDE.” he performed on the main stage but lying down. My favourite moment of the entire night, however, was after he performed “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe.” The energy in the crowd was at its peak and the entire arena erupted in woos, cheers, applause and shouts. It lasted for several minutes, with Kendrick watching from the stage in awe.

Every time I have seen Kendrick he seems incredibly humble, and you know he still cannot believe he is performing in front of 20,000 people, thousands of miles from his hometown. He expressed his gratitude, calling London “his second home.”

The set concluded with “Alright”, my personal favourite track by him, and “HUMBLE.” for which he had the crowd perform the hook, and then performed it a second time. What an end to the night – but hold on, not without an encore performance of “GOD.”

Kendrick absolutely commanded the crowd on that night. The king is not dead, he is very much alive and the greatest living rapper out there.